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Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis

What is toxic epidermal necrolysis?

Toxic epidermal necrolysis is a life-threatening skin disorder characterized by a blistering and peeling of the skin. This disorder can be caused by a drug reaction—often antibiotics or anticonvulsives.

What are the symptoms of toxic epidermal necrolysis?

Toxic epidermal necrolysis causes the skin to peel in sheets. This leaves large, raw areas exposed. The loss of skin allows fluids and salts to ooze from the raw, damaged areas. These areas can easily become infected. The following are the other most common symptoms of toxic epidermal necrolysis. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • A painful, red area that spreads quickly

  • The skin may peel without blistering

  • Raw areas of skin

  • Discomfort

  • Fever

  • Condition spread to eyes, mouth/throat, and genitals/urethra/anus 

The symptoms of toxic epidermal necrolysis may resemble other skin conditions. This is a life-threatening condition. Talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis if you are suspicious. 

Treatment for toxic epidermal necrolysis

Specific treatment for toxic epidermal necrolysis will be discussed with you by your healthcare provider based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the condition

  • Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

The disease progresses fast, usually within 3 days. Treatment usually includes hospitalization, often in the burn unit. If a medicine is causing the skin reaction, it is discontinued. Treatment may include:

  • Hospitalization

  • Isolation to prevent infection

  • Ointments and protective bandages

  • Intravenous (IV) fluid and electrolytes

  • Antibiotics

  • Intravenous immunoglobulin G