Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (also called TEN) is the technical name for a very severe type of drug reaction. Some researchers believe that the condition occurs when the body is unable to metabolize a medication. But because there is currently no way to predict such a reaction, and there are more than 100 types of drugs that can be implicated, prevention is nearly impossible.

The Logistics of Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis

The good news is that only a small number of people will ever experience this problem.  But if you suspect you could be at risk, there's a specific course that the symptoms usually take.

First, when someone suffers from Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, it usually starts off with a fever and cough, and then progresses into blistering lesions. Next, the top layer of the skin begins to detach from the inner layers. This reaction continues to expand throughout the body.

Some scientists believe that part of the problem could be that the medication gets trapped on the top skin layer, prompting the body to recognize the skin as a foreign invader and react by rejecting it.

Therefore, if you started a new medication recently (within the last month) and have any suspicious symptoms including the telltale lesions, your doctor will probably biopsy the sores and take steps to rule out any other diagnoses.

Treatment Matters

If it's confirmed that you do have Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, there are no quick cures--but there are some steps that can at least help you avoid complications.

For instance, you may need to visit a burn unit at your local hospital. Many patients need the same type of care typically given to burn victims in help them recover, since the skin loss is that serious. There's also a very real risk of dehydration to worry about, so intravenous fluid intake could be in order. In some cases, skin grafting can be helpful in the healing process.

A Final Note

It's also worth noting that using corticosteroids can sometimes help the body to recover from Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis. However, this form of treatment also comes with some risk, since this medication can be one of the causes of this condition.

While Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis is indeed very serious and can cause death, particularly in older patients and those with compromised immune systems, the majority of people who suffer from this illness will recover within about a month. Further, some patients, including children, may experience a milder form of this reaction called Stevens-Johnson syndrome, which isn't as serious.


Emergency Medicine

Medline Plus


The Free Dictionary