Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD. Patient Handout

About Your Diagnosis
Stevens-Johnson syndrome is an acute inflammatory skin disease. Most cases have a strong association with exposure to specific medications. It occurs 1–3 weeks after the first drug exposure. It is fairly uncommon and is not infectious. The disease can be severe and may require treatment in the intensive care unit of a hospital.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Stevens-Johnson syndrome begins with a fever and flulike symptoms. After 1–3 days, skin lesions appear. Mild-to-moderate skin tenderness and burning or itching of the eyes are present. There may be painful mouth lesions that impair swallowing. Sensitivity to light and anxiety may be present. There may be painful urination. The rash consists of raised target-type lesions, which will look like blisters. These lesions will peel off, exposing red, oozing skin. Fingernails may also shed.

If the blistering and peeling is extensive, hospitalization may be needed. Topical ointments to the areas will be needed. Prevention of infection is the primary concern. Mouth lesions can be treated with a rinse consisting of a mixture of Benadryl liquid and Kaopectate.

The DOs
• Prevent infection by careful hand washing by anyone caring for the lesions.
• Maintain adequate nutrition. A liquid diet may be needed if swallowing and pain are a problem.
• Maintain adequate fluid intake to prevent dehydration.
• Avoid the medication suspected of causing the episode.
• Wear a Medic Alert bracelet stating the medication suspected of causing the episode.

The DON’Ts
• Don’t scratch the lesions or “peel” the loose skin.
• Don’t use the medication suspected of causing the episode.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If high fever occurs.
• If adequate fluids and nutrition cannot be maintained because of the mouth lesions.
• If any of the symptoms worsen.

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