Stevens Johnson Syndrome is an allergic reaction to certain medications. Because it can occur even when previously tolerated medications are ingested, and because its symptoms don’t mirror the usual allergic reactions, doctors and other medical professionals may initially misdiagnose the condition. Unfortunately for patients with SJS, time is of the essence when it comes to treating the severe condition.
That’s because the symptoms of SJS are so severe - including burn-like blisters over the patient’s skin, burning of the internal organs and destruction of the membranes - that SJS and its more severe form, toxic epidermal necrolysis, can be fatal. And, because SJS is sometimes misdiagnosed as a fever, the patient may be treated with the very same medication that caused the initial reaction. Patients who survive often experience permanent side effects, including damage to the organs, scarring and vision loss.
Unfortunately for patients, once SJS has started, all doctors can do is treat the symptoms. The condition itself doesn’t clear up until the medication that caused the reaction has left the patient’s system.
One patient who had a close call with SJS was Donna Emley, as reported by WSMV (11/12/15). Emley had reportedly taken acetaminophen before developing what doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center called one of the worst cases of SJS they had seen. Emley developed scarring and an infection of her eyelids, requiring doctors to sew her eyelids shut in an attempt to save her vision. According to an earlier WSMV report (7/21/15), Emley suffered burns to 40 percent of her body.
READ MORE STEVENS JOHNSON SYNDROME (SJS) LEGAL NEWS
Among the patients who suffered through a misdiagnosis was Shanelle Logan, a 19-year-old whose story was recounted by the Times Record News (10/27/11). According to the report, when Logan first went to the hospital with what she thought was an allergic reaction, Logan was diagnosed with a kidney infection, pinkeye and a low-grade fever.
When her symptoms worsened, Logan was diagnosed with SJS. She spent 12 days in intensive care. Although she has almost fully recovered from her experience with SJS, Logan cannot go outdoors and has ongoing vision problems.
Lawsuits have been filed against some pharmaceutical companies, alleging patients are not adequately warned about the risk of SJS when taking those medications.