What Is Kawasaki Disease?

Kawasaki disease is an uncommon but serious condition that usually occurs in children under the age of five years old. It is characterized by inflammation of the blood vessels. Kawasaki disease is also known as Kawasaki syndrome or Mucocutaneous Lymph Node Syndrome. It is unclear as to what the exact cause of the disease is. It is estimated that there are more than 4,000 children in the United States who are diagnosed with Kawasaki disease each year. It is most common among children of Asian descent.

The most common symptoms of the disease is a fever that lasts for at least five days. The signs and symptoms of Kawasaki disease appear in three different phases. In the first phase, the signs and symptoms may include a fever which often is higher than 102.2 Fahrenheit and lasts more than five days, extremely red eyes (also known as conjunctivitis) without a thick discharge, a rash on the main part of the body and in the genital area, red, dry, cracked lips and an extremely red, swollen tongue, swollen, red skin on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, swollen lymph nodes in the neck and perhaps elsewhere, and irritability. In the second phase of the disease, signs and symptoms may include peeling of the skin on the hands and feet, especially the tips of the fingers and toes, often in large sheets, joint pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. And in the third phase of the disease, signs and symptoms begin to gradually clear up. This remains true unless complications arise. It could take up to eight weeks before a person begins to feel normal again.

There are three main risk factors that may increase a child’s risk of developing Kawasaki disease. The risk factors for the disease include:

·       Age. Children under 5 years old have the highest risk for developing Kawasaki disease.

·       Sex. Males are more likely to develop Kawasaki disease than females.

·       Ethnicity. Children of Asian descent, such as Japanese or Korean, have higher rates of Kawasaki disease compared to children of any other ethnicity.

Kawasaki disease is a leading cause of acquired heart disease in children. Most children receive treatment before the condition does long-term damage. However, complications that can arise as a result of this disease include heart complications such as inflammation of blood vessels, inflammation of the heart muscle, heart valve problems, and an abnormal heart rhythm.