Kawasaki Disease: Ever Heard The Name Before?

There are over hundreds of diseases and conditions that can affect the heart. While some of these are quite common, others are not much known about.

Kawasaki disease or KD is one such disease that commonly affects small children, below 5 years of age. Also referred to as mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome, the condition is named after Japanese doctor Dr. Tomisaku Kawasaki, who described the condition in 1967. ­­­­It is an acute inflammatory illness marked by inflamed arteries, veins, and capillaries which do not have any particular cause. If the condition is left untreated for long, it can significantly increase the risks of developing fatal aneurysms of the coronary artery. As per the best paediatric cardio surgeons in Pune, Kawasaki syndrome is believed to be the most common risk factor of various serious heart diseases in children.

While some children might recover on their own without the need for any treatment, for others, it can prove to be life-threatening.

Symptoms that indicate the prevalence of Kawasaki disease

Experts from the leading child cardiology hospital in Mumbai suggest that the symptoms of Kawasaki syndrome vary depending upon its stage.

During the early stages, the child is likely to present with symptoms like:

  • Persistent high fever
  • Rashes in specific areas of the body, like the torso and the groin
  • Red and swollen lips
  • Swelling in limbs due to oedema
  • Strawberry like tongue with bright red spots
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Reddening of the palms and soles
  • Mild heart problems

During the late stages, the child will present with the following symptoms:

  • Peeling of skin from the hands and feet
  • Musculoskeletal pain
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Diarrhoea and vomiting
  • Temporary loss of hearing

If your child is showing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is important to seek immediate medical help for proper assessment and evaluation. Also, it is important to understand that infants below one year of age, who account for 25 per cent of the cases of KD, might not present complete symptoms.

What caused Kawasaki Syndrome?

The exact cause of Kawasaki syndrome is yet to be determined. The condition is believed to be triggered by genetic and environmental factors as Kawasaki disease is more likely to affect children during certain specific seasons.

Factors that increase the risks of Kawasaki syndrome

Kawasaki disease has been found to be more common in children of Asian descent. Most of the children affected by it, around 75 per cent, have been found to be below 5 years of age. Studies are still being conducted to determine whether the disease can be inherited or not, however, the likelihood of the same tends to increase within families. Siblings of children suffering from Kawasaki disease are at 10 times higher risks of developing the disease.

How is the condition diagnosed?

There is no particular test screening for determining Kawasaki syndrome. Doctors usually evaluate the symptoms and conduct tests to rule out the suspicion of some other disease with the same symptoms. These include scarlet fever, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, measles, toxic shock syndrome, juvenile mercury poisoning, and adverse medical reactions.

An echocardiographic may be conducted to generate detailed images of the child's heart using sound waves. This helps to determine any abnormality in the structure of the heart and the heart vessels.

Chest X-ray will be performed to assess the signs of heart failure and look for any sort of inflammation

Blood tests are usually recommended to determine any abnormality in the blood components such as elevated white blood cell count, elevated red blood cell count and inflammation.

Are there any treatment options available?

Effective treatment of Kawasaki disease is possible only with early medical intervention. If your child is diagnosed with the condition, it is important to start the treatment as soon as possible. The first line of treatment includes aspirin and intravenous immunoglobulin

Timing plays a very crucial role in determining the course of prognosis. Some studies have indicated a higher resistance to treatment if the same started before the fifth day of the fever. Nearly 11 to 23 per cent of the children are likely to have resistance.