Zithromax is an antibiotic manufactured by Pfizer. It is used to treat mild to moderate bacterial infections. One rare but serious side effect is Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a severe reaction affecting the skin and mucous membranes. SJS and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), the more severe version of the condition, are considered medical emergencies that need immediate medical attention.
Early detection of SJS can significantly help a patient’s prognosis. The initial symptoms of SJS can be easy to miss, since they resemble the flu. Patients may experience a fever, sore throat, chills and lethargy, for instance. In the days that follow, a characteristic rash appears that spreads and blisters. The top layer of skin sloughs off as the condition progresses. If SJS affects over 30 percent of the skin, it is known as TEN.
SJS can also affect the eyes and lead to blindness. Patients may experience red, painful watery eyes before the condition becomes full-blown.
SJS and TEN are most commonly caused by a reaction to a drug. Many different medications can lead to SJS, but certain types of drugs seem to cause it more often; antibiotics and epilepsy drugs, for instance, are linked to SJS more often than other medications.
According to WebMD, the first thing medical professionals to do treat SJS is discontinue the medication causing the reaction. Treatment also involves preventing infection, replenishing fluids, nutrients and wound care. Sometimes, SJS patients are treated in the burn unit where they can receive skin grafts. Medical professionals will also clean the eyes and use special drugs to stop them from drying out.