Kawasaki disease usually strikes children, with 80 percent of cases afflicting those under the age of five, and initially presents itself with a rash and fever. Sometimes the lymph nodes swell early in the disease. As the disease progresses, other symptoms usually show themselves, such as conjunctivitis, “strawberry tongue,” erythema or redness on hands, feet or other places on the body. Specific cause is unknown, but it is believed Kawasaki occurs due to a combination of environmental and genetic reasons, and it sometimes follows an infection.
Kawasaki disease can become a critical condition, due to cardiac complications that may accompany the disease. Blood vessels may become inflamed, and aneurysms or tachycardia can develop. Complications can lead to heart attack even in very young children.
Diagnosing Kawasaki disease
Kawasaki disease is much more common in Japan and Asia than in the United States. At this writing, about two to four thousand cases are present in the United States annually. Most likely a child’s pediatrician will perform urine tests and blood tests to rule out other illnesses before testing for Kawasaki disease. To definitively diagnose it, an echocardiogram and electrocardiogram will be done to examine the child’s heart. Blood tests will determine the white cell count. It is important that all symptoms are reported to the physician in detail.
If a child presents any symptoms of Kawasaki disease, it is vital to seek medical attention within ten to twelve days to attempt prevention of cardiac complications.
Treating Kawasaki disease
Aspirin will be given to the Kawasaki patient in order lower fever, prevent blood clots, and decrease any inflammation. Early in the disease, aspirin dosages are usually higher. Normally an infusion of gamma globulin will be given. This immune protein serves the function of preventing damage to the coronary arteries. The infusion is done under close supervision of a doctor, as children can have different reactions to gamma globulin.
A pediatric cardiologist usually follows up on Kawasaki disease patients with period electrocardiograms and echocardiograms to carefully monitor heart function. Once the patient has shown to remain symptom-free with normal cardiac activity and normal coronary arteries, they require no further treatment.
Most Kawasaki patients completely recover within ten to twelve days or two weeks, with no further symptomology. However, in some patients cardiac damage is done and the individual requires treatment throughout their life, sometimes leading to surgery. Complications from Kawasaki disease are only fatal in about two per cent of untreated cases.
Signet/Mosby Medical Encyclopedia
National Institute of Health