Kawasaki disease affects the skin, mouth, nose, throat, lymph nodes, and linings of the blood vessels. The disease is named, as it was identified for the first time by Dr. Tomisaku Kawasaki of Japan, in 1967. It is also referred to as Kawasaki syndrome or mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome. Though, it can affect older children and teenagers, it is estimated that 80 percent of the affected children are below 5 years. It occurs mostly among boys than girls.
The causes of this disease are still unknown; however, possible causes may be due to genetic and environmental factors. It is believed that viral infections and immune system also play a major role in the development of this disease. Some scientific studies have claimed that it is caused after exposure to chemicals and allergies. However, till date there is no proof as to how it is developed. It is found to be non-contagious.
The first notable sign of this medical condition is high fever, usually higher than 39° Celsius (104° Fahrenheit), that remains persistent for at least 5 days to about 2 weeks. It is possible that the child may have seizure, because of the high body temperature. In the following days, the symptoms are accompanied with irritability and restlessness. Following is the list of symptoms that are associated with this medical condition.
Swollen lymph nodes
Redness in the eyes
Red, dry, and cracked lips
Red and swollen palms and soles
Peeling skin, especially the palms, nails, and soles
Skin rash, mostly in the trunk portion and/or genitals
Strawberry tongue (white covering in the tongue, with papillae)
For an untreated medical condition, there are chances that it affects the heart and causes certain problems like vasculitis (inflammation in the blood vessels), arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythm), inflammation of the heart muscles, and membrane lining (pericarditis), and in some cases, meningitis (inflammation of meninges). About 20 percent kids with this disease develop heart problems and approximately 2 percent of them die due to these complications each year. In the United States, it is the leading cause of heart disease among children.
Timely diagnosis of this disease helps in preventing the possible health complications of the illness. It is diagnosed based on the symptoms and physical examination. It can be confirmed after conducting a series of diagnostic tests such as blood test, urine test, electrocardiogram (ECG), and liver function tests. As already mentioned, the affected children usually recover within a few days, if treatment is done early, on the onset of the first symptom.
The treatment is aimed at reducing pain, inflammation, blood clot formation, and aneurysms in the coronary arteries. Further, it is done by administering salicylic acid (aspirin) and intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG). If pain persists, the physician may prescribe over the counter medications like pain-relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs. In case of the affected children who are non-responsive to these medications, the doctor may perform plasma exchange, also known as plasmapheresis. It is a procedure that involves the removal of a portion of plasma from the affected child’s blood, and replacing it with protein-enriched fluids.
It is advisable that the affected children should opt for ECG regularly, for the first few weeks. In the following years, ECG should be conducted every year. This would help in evaluating and preventing the onset of heart diseases. Since, this medical condition mostly occurs in winter and spring seasons, proper care should be taken in terms of the kids’ health during such a period, to avoid development of the disease.