Dangerous Skin Reaction, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, A Risk of Many Medications

Patient advocates maintain that the current drug allergy alert on labels of many over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen don’t adequately warn users about the risk of <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/stevens_johnson_syndrome">Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS), a potentially fatal skin reaction. While prescription medications associated with SJS often bear a Black Box Warning – the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) most urgent safety warning – about the condition, ibuprofen and other over-the-counter labels usually only warn consumers of “severe allergic reactions,” and make no mention of SJS.

SJS is a severe sensitivity reaction that can be caused by many drugs. It presents with blistering of mucous membranes, typically in the mouth, eyes, and vagina and patchy areas of rash, that eventually peel off the skin. SJS can even spread to internal organs, and it can cause scarring and even blindness. The most severe cases of SJS are referred to as TEN (toxic epidermal necrolysis), and involve more than 30 percent of the body surface being covered in blisters. Both SJS and TEN usually require treatment in hospital burn units.

According to a report on MSNBC, SJS can be caused by just about any drug, but is most often associated with anticonvulsants, antibiotics like penicillin and sulfonamides, and common anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, naproxen and ibuprofen.

The key to stopping SJS is early diagnosis and intervention, which includes stopping the drug that has caused the conditions. But because warnings on so many medications are vague, most people wouldn’t recognize that SJS has developed at the earliest stages. They may very well brush off what seems like a minor blister or rash, even though such an occurrence is a major red flag.

While not every rash or blister is SJS, it is vital that consumers understand the risks. According to MSNBC, experts advise not using medications unless absolutely necessary, and informing your doctor if you experience flu-like symptoms or a blistering and rash while using any drug.

While most SJS victims do survive, not all are that fortunate. Last year, NBA hero Manute Boll succumbed to SJS that was linked to a kidney medication he took while on a trip to Africa. He was only 47.

Even patients who do survive SJS won’t have an easy road, as disfigurement often results in severe cases. The MSNBC report highlighted a young woman, 20-year-old Veronica Zenkner, who is blind in one eye following a battle with SJS she developed seven years ago after taking two ibuprofen pills. She still bears the scars of her ordeal on her cheeks, shoulders and back.

“I’m lucky I got great care and survived,” Zenkner told MSNBC. “But it’s still tough to forget about that time. Sometimes I dream about it.”

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