Inflammatory Diseases: What is Kawasaki Disease?

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What Is Kawasaki Disease?

Kawasaki disease is also sometimes called mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome. So, what is Kawasaki disease? It’s an inflammatory condition that affects the walls of the patient’s arteries, interferes with the lymph nodes, and can also cause abnormal heart rhythms. Some patients experience inflammation of the coronary artery, which provides blood flow to the heart. The heart muscle can also become inflamed, a condition called myocarditis. It may also interfere with the normal functioning of the heart’s valves.

While these heart complications are certainly serious, in most patients, they can usually be resolved with treatment. It is less common for a patient to develop a permanent heart condition known as acquired heart disease.

Risk Factors

The exact cause of Kawasaki disease is unknown. It is not contagious. While it is also not inherited, some experts believe that a genetic susceptibility is possible. There are a few risk factors, for example, boys are more likely to develop the condition than girls. Patients under the age of five, as well as those of Asian descent, are more likely to contract the illness.

Symptoms

Kawasaki disease develops in stages and can mimic other conditions, so it is important to keep track of all of your child’s symptoms and when they occur. The symptoms that typically define what is Kwasaki disease are a high fever that can persist for two weeks, accompanied by swollen lymph nodes and a rash on the torso and genitals. Patients also have very red eyes, a swollen, red tongue, and cracked, red lips. This extreme redness is also noticeable on the palms and the bottoms of the feet. These are symptoms of the first stage of Kawasaki disease.

The second stage of Kawasaki disease will bring joint pain and abdominal pain. Patients will typically suffer from vomiting and diarrhea, as well as a peeling of the skin in large sheets, particularly on the fingers and toes.

The third stage of Kawasaki disease is a slow recovery. These symptoms will diminish gradually, assuming that no complications develop. Some patients may not feel fully recovered for as long as eight weeks.

Treatment

The treatment for Kawasaki disease is more likely to be successful when it is begun within the first 10 days. The fever can be lowered with the aid of aspirin, which can also decrease inflammation and ease pain. Due to the risk of serious complications, parents should never administer aspirin to a very young child except under the close supervision of the pediatrician.

A doctor will also typically administer an infusion of gamma globulin, which is a type of protein that can reduce the risk of complications to the coronary artery. If complications do develop, the child will likely be given blood thinning medications to help prevent blood clots. Less commonly, they may need to undergo a procedure to open the blood vessels, such as a coronary artery angioplasty, a stent placement, or a coronary artery bypass graft surgery.

References

Mayo Clinic Staff, “Kawasaki Disease," https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/kawasaki-disease/DS00576

American Heart Association, “Kawasaki Disease," https://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4634

KidsHealth, “Kawasaki Disease," https://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/heart/kawasaki.html