What is Kawasaki Disease?

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Kawasaki disease is a rare disorder that is most commonly seen in children under the age of five. The condition is also termed mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome and usually manifests much like a viral infection in affected children. It is also known of as infantile polyarteritis. The exact cause of the condition is not well understood.

Kawasaki disease affects around eight in every 100,000 children in the United Kingdom and is nearly one and half times more common in boys than in girls. The disease is so named because it was first described in 1967 by a Dr. Tomisaku Kawasaki in Japan, where the disease is much more prevalent, affecting 175 in every 100,000 children.

Symptoms of Kawasaki disease

Symptoms usually last for over five days in most children and include:

  • All-over body rash
  • Swollen lymph glands in the neck
  • Reddening of fingers and toes
  • Drying and cracking of the lips
  • Reddening and watering of the eyes
  • Some children may have a low grade fever

Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis and early treatment of Kawasaki disease can lead to a complete recovery within six to eight weeks after symptom onset. Treatment is most commonly performed in the hospital due to the likelihood of complications. Treatment should be started as soon as possible, ideally within 10 days of symptoms first appearing as early treatment ensures an earlier and complication-free recovery.

The main medications that are beneficial in Kawasaki disease are:

  • Aspirin, a non steroidal anti-inflammatory agent that reduces inflammation
  • Intravenous immunoglobulin, an injected solution of antibodies

Complications of Kawasaki disease

Kawasaki disease is associated with widespread inflammation and can cause blood vessels to become inflamed. Sometimes, this swelling and inflammation affects the coronary arteries of the heart leading to severe consequences. Heart complications may be seen in up to 5% of children with Kawasaki disease and in around 1% of cases may be fatal.

Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc

Sources

  1. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Kawasaki-disease/Pages/Introduction.aspx
  2. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/110/17/2747.full.pdf+html
  3. http://www.ed.bmc.org/library/core-curriculum/AAFPKawasaki.pdf
  4. http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@hcm/documents/downloadable/ucm_300320.pdf
  5. http://www.adhb.govt.nz/starshipclinicalguidelines/_Documents/Kawasaki%20Disease.pdf
  6. http://www.rch.org.au/clinicalguide/guideline_index/Kawasaki_Disease_Guideline/
  7. http://www.cdc.gov/kawasaki/

Further Reading

Last Updated: Oct 10, 2013

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