What is Stevens Johnson Syndrome?

by Jun 5, 2022

Stevens Johnson Syndrome is a condition that affects the mucous membranes of the entire body – including the surface of the eyes.


About Stevens Johnson Syndrome

Also known as erythema multiforme, Stevens Johnson Syndrome is a rare condition that is an adverse autoimmune reaction to a medication, infection, systemic disease, or radiation treatment.

Stevens Johnson Syndrome is the most prevalent in the male population between twenty and forty.

This condition can cause a variety of symptoms and signs as the presentation of Stevens Johnson Syndrome can vary based on the severity of the reaction.


Signs of Stevens Johnson Syndrome

Since Stevens Johnson Syndrome is a condition affecting the mucous membranes of the body – the front of the eyes, the mouth, throat, and nose – the majority of the symptoms are related to these areas and their functions.

Sores and swelling along the walls of the mouth and the lips cause pain, difficulty swallowing, impaired speech, and – along with swelling of the nasal cavity impairs breathing.

Stevens Johnson Syndrome affects the front of the eyes and results in changes to the tear film, eyelids, and eyelashes. These changes combine to result in severe dry eye, eye pain, blurred vision, and can lead to permanent vision loss if the effects are not managed properly.


Medication Causes of Stevens Johnson Syndrome

One of the leading causes of Stevens Johnson Syndrome is medication. Stevens Johnson Syndrome results from an extreme adverse reaction to a medication and persists throughout the course of the medication treatment.

Of the medications that are associated with Stevens Johnson Syndrome, sulfonamides are the most commonly seen as a causative agent.

Sulfonamides are modified to create a vast array of different medications. Among the medications in the sulfonamide family are antibiotics like sulfamethoxazole and glaucoma medications such as acetazolamide.

Besides sulfonamides, other drug classes including penicillins, salicylates (aspirin), and barbituates like phenobarbital can induce a Stevens Johnson Syndrome reaction.


Diseases That Can Cause Stevens Johnson Syndrome

Diseases and infections can lead to a Stevens Johnson Syndrome reaction.

Collagen vascular diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, Marfan Syndrome, and Ehler-Danlos Syndrome can create an immune environment that is heightened and results in Stevens Johnson Syndrome reactions.

Infections, including bacteria and viruses, can lead to Stevens Johnson Syndrome through the reduction of normal body immune function and the subsequent increase in autoimmune reactions.

All forms of disease and infection induced Stevens Johnson Syndrome reactions are manageable along with the disease or infection with which it began.


How is Stevens Johnson Syndrome Treated?

To treat Stevens Johnson Syndrome, the causative agent must be identified. Once the cause is identified it is removed (medication), treated (infection), or managed (chronic disease).

Other than identifying and managing the causative agent, the remaining treatments are palliative to reduce the pain and other negative effects.

For the effects on the eyes, bandage contact lenses or an amniotic membrane may be used for protection of the cornea.

Additionally, steroids and antibiotics may be used to reduce the effects of systemic inflammation and a potential secondary infection, respectively.


Dr. Nathan Abraham and the staff of the Abraham Eye Center specializes in cataract surgery, LASIK, PRK, and various corneal surgeries.  Call our ophthalmologist in Valencia, CA today at 661-977-7377 or schedule an appointment online if you are interested in learning more about Stevens Johnson Syndrome.  Our eye doctor provides only the highest quality eye care and surgical services amongst eye doctors in the Valencia California area.

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