What is Steven-Johnson syndrome?

Stevens-Johnson syndrome is considered as a rare, serious disorder of your skin and mucous membranes. It is frequently a reaction when you use medication or experience an infection. Often, flu-like symptoms are very first and typical in Stevens-Johnson syndrome, followed by a painful red or purplish rash that spreads and blisters. Then the top layer of the affected skin dies and sheds. Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a medical emergency that usually requires hospitalization.

How common is Steven-Johnson syndrome?

Stevens-Johnson syndrome has occurred worldwide in all races, although it may be more common in whites. Interestingly, disease is not limited to humans; cases have been reported in dogs, cats, and monkeys. The condition is much more common in women. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of Steven-Johnson syndrome?

Some common signs and symptoms of Stevens-Johnson syndrome may include:

  • Facial swelling
  • Tongue swelling
  • Hives
  • Skin pain
  • A red or purple skin rash that spreads within hours to days
  • Blisters on your skin and the mucous membranes of your mouth, nose, eyes and genitals
  • Shedding of your skin

If you are experiencing Stevens-Johnson syndrome, several days before the rash develops you may have some symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • Sore mouth and throat
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Burning eyes

When should I see my doctor?

Stevens-Johnson syndrome requires immediate medical attention. If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes Steven-Johnson syndrome?

There are two primary reasons for Steven-Johnson syndrome:

Medication and therapy causes

Drugs that can cause Stevens-Johnson syndrome include:

  • Anti-gout medications, such as allopurinol
  • Pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve)
  • Medications to fight infection, such as penicillin
  • Medications to treat seizures or mental illness (anticonvulsants and antipsychotics)
  • Radiation therapy

Infectious causes

Infections that can cause Stevens-Johnson syndrome include:

  • Herpes (herpes simplex or herpes zoster)
  • Pneumonia
  • HIV
  • Hepatitis

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Steven-Johnson syndrome?

You may have higher risks for this condition if you are experiencing these following conditions:

Viral infections

Your risk of Stevens-Johnson syndrome may be increased if you have an infection caused by a virus, such as herpes, viral pneumonia, HIV or hepatitis.

Weakened immune system

If you have a weakened immune system, you may have an increased risk of Stevens-Johnson syndrome. Your immune system can be affected by an organ transplant, HIV/AIDS and autoimmune diseases, such as lupus.

A history of Stevens-Johnson syndrome

If you have had a medication-related form of this condition, you are at risk of a recurrence if you use that drug again.

A family history of Stevens-Johnson syndrome

If an immediate family member has had Stevens-Johnson syndrome or a related condition called toxic epidermal necrolysis, you may be more susceptible to developing Stevens-Johnson syndrome too.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Steven-Johnson syndrome diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor such as blood test. Skin test is also ordered to confirm the diagnosis and your doctor may remove a sample of skin for laboratory testing.

How is Steven-Johnson syndrome treated?

Some treatment options may be recommended by your doctor include:

Stopping nonessential medications

The first and most important step in treating Stevens-Johnson syndrome is to discontinue any medications that may be causing it.

Supportive care

Supportive care you are likely to receive while hospitalized includes:

  • Fluid replacement and nutrition

Because skin loss can result in significant loss of fluid from your body, replacing fluids is an important part of treatment. You may receive fluids and nutrients through a tube placed through your nose and advanced into your stomach

  • Wound care

Cool, wet compresses will help soothe blisters while they heal

  • Eye care

You may also see an eye specialist (ophthalmologist).


Medications commonly used in the treatment of Stevens-Johnson syndrome include:

  • Pain medication to reduce discomfort
  • Medication to relieve itching (antihistamines)
  • Antibiotics to control infection, when needed
  • Medication to reduce skin inflammation (topical steroids)

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Steven-Johnson syndrome?

Following these useful tips can help you to reduce the symptom of this condition:

Know what caused your reaction

If your condition was caused by a medication, learn its name and that of closely related medications.

Inform your health care providers

Tell all your health care providers that you have a history of Stevens-Johnson syndrome. If the reaction was caused by a medication, tell them which one.

Wear a medical information bracelet or necklace

Have information about your condition and what caused it inscribed on a medical information bracelet or necklace. Always wear it

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: July 31, 2017 | Last Modified: July 31, 2017

Want to live your best life?
Get the Hello Doktor Daily newsletter for health tips, wellness updates and more.