- Kawasaki disease is a syndrome of unknown cause that mainly strikes young children.
- Kawasaki disease symptoms and signs include
- The disease can be treated with high doses of aspirin (salicylic acid) and gamma globulin.
- Kawasaki disease symptoms usually resolve within a month or two, but the disease should be considered a “lifelong disease” because monitoring for late-onset heart artery changes is necessary.
- Some children with Kawasaki disease suffer coronary artery lesions.
- Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is different but with similar symptoms to Kawasaki disease.
What is Kawasaki disease, and how do doctors diagnose it?
The definition of Kawasaki disease is an uncommon illness in children that is characterized by high fever of at least 5 days’ duration together with at least four of the following five symptoms and signs that occur in the acute phase:
- Inflammation with reddening of the whites (conjunctivae) of the eyes (conjunctivitis or pinkeye) without pus
- Redness or swelling of the feet and/or hands, or generalized skin peeling
- Rash on body and/or genital area
- Lymph nodes swelling in the neck
- Cracking, inflamed lips or throat, or red “strawberry” tongue
Doctors use the above criteria to make a diagnosis of Kawasaki disease. Some investigators consider this phase 1. Phase 2 signs and symptoms may occur during the disease and may include:
- Skin peeling (from red palms and finger tips and reddish swollen feet)
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
In phase 3, signs and symptoms slowly abate if there are no complications. However, the person may have irritability, tiredness, and low energy for 1-2 months.
Doctors sometimes use the terminology “incomplete Kawasaki disease” for patients who receive a diagnosis with only some features of classical Kawasaki disease.
Most patients (about 77%) are under 5 years of age with a peak incidence at 18 months of age. It is the most common acquired heart disease in children. Complications may include long-term effects of heart problems and coronary artery abnormalities like vasculitis.
What is mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome?
Mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome is the original name for Kawasaki disease. The original name was quite descriptive because the disease is characterized by the typical changes in the mucous membranes that line the lips and mouth and by the enlarged and tender lymph nodes. Kawasaki disease is also termed infantile polyarteritis.
What are causes of Kawasaki disease?
The cause is not known. Microorganisms and toxins like that of scarlet fever have been suspected, but none has been identified to date.
- It is common for Kawasaki disease to occur after a preceding infection, such as tonsillitis, ear infection, pneumonia, urine infection, or gastrointestinal infection.
- Genetic factors (genetic variants in some patients) and the immune system (for example, autoimmune disease) seem to play roles in the disease, which is characterized by immune activation.
- The disease is more common in those of Japanese or Korean descent.
Who develops Kawasaki disease?
Kawasaki disease typically affects children under 5 years of age. Only rarely does it affect children over 8 years of age, in which case it is sometimes referred to as atypical Kawasaki disease. Read More