Kawasaki Disease - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

By: peterhutch

Kawasaki disease is the most common form of vasculitis that primarily affects children. The disease produces irritation and inflammation of many tissues of the body, including the hands, feet, whites of the eyes, mouth, lips, and throat. High fever and swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck also are characteristic of this illness. The inflammation is uncomfortable, but resolves with time. However, the main threat from Kawasaki disease comes from its effect on the heart and blood vessels. Heart-related complications can be temporary or may affect the child long-term.
Kawasaki disease is a rare condition in children that involves inflammation of the blood vessels. The condition is usually accompanied by a fever that lasts at least 5 days. Other classic symptoms may include red eyes, lips, and mouth; rash; swollen and red hands and feet; and swollen lymph nodes.

Kawasaki disease affects the vascular system, and is now the main cause of acquired heart disease in children. It is most common in people of Asian descent, and is both more common and more deadly in males.

Causes

Kawasaki disease occurs most frequently in Japan, where the disease was first discovered. In the United States, Kawasaki disease is the leading cause of acquired heart disease in children. It affects more than 4,000 children each year. Eighty percent of patients are younger than age 5.
Kawasaki disease is a poorly understood illness. The cause has not been determined. It may be an autoimmune disorder. The disorder affects the mucus membranes, lymph nodes, walls of the blood vessels, and the heart.

Signs and Symptoms

Kawasaki disease can't be prevented, but usually has telltale symptoms and signs that appear in phases.
The first phase, which can last for up to 2 weeks, usually involves a persistent fever higher than 104? Fahrenheit (39? Celsius) and lasts for at least 5 days.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of Kawasaki disease cannot be made by a single test or combination of tests. A physician makes the dagnosis after carefully examining the child, hearing the history of onset of symptoms from the parents, and eliminating the possibilities of the other diseases that can cause similar findings.

How does the illness progress?

The symptoms listed above can last up to 10 days. They then usually ease and go. Some children become very unwell, but others have a mild illness similar to many virus infections. However, any child suspected of Kawasaki disease is normally admitted to hospital, even if they appear to have a mild illness. A heart scan is normally done to look for complications (see below). If complications do occur, they usually develop a week or so after the symptoms listed above.

Treatment of Kawasaki Disease:

Children will be hospitalized and treated with high doses of gamma globulin. This must be given IV and will typically be run over 10-12 hours. Aspirin therapy is also used in conjunction with this. Kawasaki Disease puts a child at risk for aneurism (swelling or ballooning out of a blood vessel) or heart attack. Since Kawasaki Disease causes inflammation of the blood vessels it puts a child at risk for cardiovascular complications both long and short term. If treated within ten days with IV gamma globulin, your child stands an excellent chance of complete recovery with no long term complications.

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