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Kawasaki Disease

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One of the rare childhood illnesses that many parents need to cope with is Kawasaki disease. This is a mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome begins with high fever, rash and other typical symptoms that will be discussed further in the article.

Overview of kawasaki disease

Kawasaki disease causes inflammation of the blood vessels. It strikes children under the age group of 5 years. The disease causes inflammation of blood vessels of the hands, feet, mouth, lips, lymph nodes, skin, even the whites of the eyes. Although many children recover from this disease, without treatment it could lead to damage of the coronary artery.

Causes of kawasaki disease

The exact cause of Kawasaki disease is unknown. It was recognized by Dr. Tomisaku Kawasaki , in 1967.  It is thought that the disease is contagious and can spread through contact. However, the vector or mode of transmission, i.e. bacteria, virus or any other factor remains unknown. This disease is very common in children from Japan or Korea. However, the disease is not just restricted to children from these regions.

Symptoms of kawasaki disease

Kawasaki disease is very frightening as it causes peeling of skin and redness. The disease occurs in stages with fever appearing first. The fever is very high, about 101.3 F (38.5 C). The fever lasts for about a week or two.

Along with the fever, the child suffers from severe conjunctivitis without any type of eye discharge. A rash appears on the body and genital area gradually. The child develops strawberry red tongue that is swollen and red, cracked lips. The swelling and redness will also be seen on the palms and soles of the feet. The child becomes extremely irritable and develops swelling of the lymph nodes.

In the next phase, the child shows peeling of the skin. The peeling appears mostly on the tips of the fingers and the toes. The peeling is severe and the skin comes off in large pieces. This peeling is accompanied with joint pain, diarrhea, vomiting as well as abdominal pain.

In the last phase, the symptoms begin to wane gradually. The child will seem lethargic, as if the energy has been drained from him. The child will take about 2 months to recover fully.

Complications for kawasaki disease

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If the disease is not treated within 10 days of onset, it could lead to long-lasting damage to the heart. This includes coronary artery aneurysm, myocarditis, etc.

Diagnosis of kawasaki disease

Diagnosis is very difficult for Kawasaki disease as there is no test for it. The diagnosis is made on the basis of any of the above four symptoms along with a fever that lasts for more than 5 days. Other tests to confirm the Kawasaki disease include:

  • Complete blood count
  • C-reactive protein
  • Liver function test
  • Urinalysis

Treatment of kawasaki disease

Hospitalization of the child suffering from Kawasaki is necessary. The child is given intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) in high doses for 24 hours. Aspirin is the medicine of choice to treat the fever.

Prognosis of kawasaki disease

The overall prognosis is good as most children make a full  from the disease. However, the child may have to undergo an echocardiogram for a few weeks and then for the next 2 years. This is to make sure the heart is not affected in any way.

Kawasaki disease is a rare disease without any known cause. If  child has high grade fever for more than 5 days, make sure you consult the doctor immediately.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: February 27, 2015