Woman 'burned from the inside' after rare reaction to medication: 'It was scary'

Charlotte Gilmour, 23, had to stay in hospital for a month after suffering the allergic reaction.

A woman almost lost her life after suffering a severe reaction from medication, with the rare disorder she developed making her skin, mouth and oesophagus blister. When she desperately sought help, doctors admitted they knew very little about the disorder and how they could treat it.

Charlotte Gilmour, 23, had been reportedly battling a chest infection for several weeks when she woke up at her home in Palmerston North, New Zealand with a rash on her body. She reportedly burst into tears, knowing right away it was "something quite serious".

"I looked in the mirror and I just burst into tears. I think I subconsciously knew it was something quite serious," she told Stuff.

Charlotte Gilmour has a feeding tube in her nose with her nose, lips and neck covered in blisters (left). Gilmour stands smiling before her reaction, showing a comparison to her skin after the allergic reaction.
Charlotte Gilmour suffered a severe allergic reaction to medication she was taking for depression. Source: Stuff and Facebook

She was later diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a disorder which affects fewer than one-in-a-million people globally. It is believed she developed it from lamotrigine, a medication she took to treat depression. It's not clear if the chest infection is connected, or an unrelated illness.

Gilmour was taken to hospital where some Filipino nurses reportedly recognised the symptoms from cases in their home country, but there wasn't a lot of information medical staff had at their disposal to help her.

"It was scary, I guess, hearing... 'OK, no one really knows a lot about this'," Gilmour said.

The patient's shoulder and neck covered in red blisters while she lies in a hospital bed.
Gilmour's skin blistered and she needed a feeding tube. Source: Stuff

She needed a feeding tube due to the severe blistering in her digestive tract, which also extended to the skin on her face, shoulders and back.

The first round of steroids doctors gave her made no difference, with medical staff reportedly saying "there's no point" to continue as the medication was doing little to help treat or even lessen her symptoms. However, Gilmour begged to be put back on them when she started to lose her vision.

The medication eventually started to make a difference. After 30 days in hospital, Gilmour recovered and has since been discharged.

An allergic reaction which causes rashes or blistering of the skin is a known side-effect of lamotrigine, a medication which is given to treat depression and patients with epilepsy in Australia. In most cases the skin irritations will subside, however, patients are urged to immediately stop the medication and seek medical advice if they occur.

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