Kawasaki Disease: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Overview

Kawasaki disease, also known as Kawasaki syndrome or mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome, is a disease that causes inflammation in the walls of medium-sized arteries throughout the body. This illness mainly affects children. Sometimes the inflammation will affect the coronary arteries, which may lead to serious heart problems.

 

Causes

The exact cause of Kawasaki disease hasn’t been identified, but some researchers point out that bacteria, viruses, environmental factors as well as genetic factors may be associated with this disease. What’s more, scientists don’t believe it is contagious, which means it can’t be passed from person to person.

 

Risk factors

The following three things may increase the risk of developing Kawasaki disease:

  • Age  Children under 5 years old are most at risk of Kawasaki disease
  • Sex  Boys have a slightly higher risk than girls
  • Ethnicity  The disease occurs most often in children of Asian and Pacific Island descent.

 

Symptoms

Symptoms of Kawasaki disease can be divided into three phases.

1st phase

Symptoms in this phase include:

  • A fever that is often is higher than 102.2 F (39 C) and lasts more than three days
  • Extremely red eyes (conjunctivitis) without a thick discharge
  • A rash on the main part of the body (trunk) and in the genital area
  • Red, dry, cracked lips and an extremely red, swollen tongue (strawberry tongue)
  • Swollen, red skin on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck and perhaps elsewhere
  • Irritability

2nd phase

In the 2nd phase, children may experience:

  • Peeling of the skin on the hands and feet, especially the tips of the fingers and toes, often in large sheets
  • Joint pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

3rd phase

In the last phase, symptoms usually go away slowly unless some complications occur.

 

Diagnosis

Kawasaki disease can’t be diagnosed straightly. Doctors need to rule out other diseases that may lead to similar signs and symptoms. These diseases include:

  • Scarlet fever, which is caused by streptococcal bacteria and results in fever, rash, chills and sore throat
  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a disorder of the mucous membranes
  • Toxic shock syndrome
  • Measles
  • Certain tick-borne illnesses, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever

In order to make a diagnosis, your doctor may perform a physical examination as well as the following tests:

  • Urine tests
  • Blood tests
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Echocardiogram

 

Treatment

To reduce the risk of complications your children usually need to receive initial treatment in the hospital. This may last a few days or a few weeks.

Initial treatment focuses on lowering fever and inflammation and preventing heart damage. Doctors usually recommend:

  • Aspirin: used to reduce fever, rash, joint inflammation, and pain, and to help prevent formation of blood clots.

FDA Approved Drugs and User Comments: ASPIRIN

  • Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG): used to decrease the risk of developing coronary artery abnormalities

Other medications like steroids or infliximab may be recommended for the children who don’t respond to IVIG.

Infliximab: Uses & Side Effects

After the initial treatment

If your children develop a coronary artery aneurysm, it may be necessary for he or she to take low-dose aspirin for at least six weeks and longer. It can help prevent clotting.

If flu or chickenpox is observed during treatment, children may need to stop taking aspirin which can possibly cause Reye’s syndrome.

Most children can fully recover and don’t need any further treatment. However, they ought to follow a healthy diet and adopt healthy lifestyle so that the chance of getting heart diseases in the future can be lowered. If possible, bring your child in for a follow-up visit with your doctor in case there are some problems that didn’t occur temporarily.

Children having treatment with IVIG should wait at least 11 months before having the measles and chicken pox vaccines, for IVIG will affect how well these vaccines work.

Keywords: Kawasaki disease; artery.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.