Adverse drug reactions are the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States. Recently, one such reaction called Stevens Johnson Syndrome, or SJS, took the life of beloved NBA hero Manute Bol.
According to the Associated Press, Bol died last week at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville, where he was being treated for severe kidney trouble and Stevens Johnson Syndrome. It is believed Bol contracted the skin disease as a reaction to kidney medication he took while in Africa. He was only 47.
Bol played 10 seasons in the NBA with Washington, Golden State, Philadelphia and Miami and later worked closely as an advisory board member of Sudan Sunrise, which promotes reconciliation in Sudan. Bol averaged 2.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.3 blocked shots.
According to the Associated Press, Bol was hospitalized in mid-May during a stopover in Washington after returning to the United States from Sudan. An official with Sudan Sunrise told the Associated Press that the skin around Bol’s mouth was so sore that he went 11 days without eating and could barely talk. Stevens-Johnson Syndrome also caused Bol to lose patches of skin.
“Anyone, at any age, can contract Stevens Johnson Syndrome,” Jean McCawley, the founder of the Stevens Johnson Syndrome Foundation, said in a statement. “The biggest issue we see is a lack of awareness about adverse drug reactions. Even with the unfortunate passing of Mr. Bol, there have been many incorrect statements made about SJS.”
Stevens-Johnson Syndrome causes blistering of mucous membranes, typically in the mouth, eyes, and vagina and patchy areas of rash. According to the Stevens Johnson Syndrome Foundation, almost any medication including over-the-counter drugs, such as Ibuprofen, can cause the disorder. Most commonly implicated drugs are anti-convulsants, antibiotics (such as sulfa, penicillin and cephalosporin) and anti-inflammatory medications. If left untreated, the disorder can lead to death.
Early signs and symptoms of Stevens Johnson Syndrome include:
â€¢ Rash, blisters, or red splotches on skin
â€¢ Persistent fever
â€¢ Blisters in mouth, eyes, ears, nose, genital area
â€¢ Swelling of eyelids, red eyes
â€¢ Flu-like symptoms
â€¢ Recent history of having taken a prescription or over-the-counter medication
As the Stevens Johnson Syndrome Foundation points out, that there is no mandatory reporting for allergic drug reactions, so there’s no way to know how many people contract Stevens Johnson Syndrome each year.