Symptoms and causes

Symptoms

Kawasaki disease symptoms usually appear in three phases.

1st phase

Signs and symptoms of the first phase may include:

  • A fever that is often is higher than 102.2 F (39 C) and lasts more than three days
  • Extremely red eyes (conjunctivitis) without a thick discharge
  • A rash on the main part of the body (trunk) and in the genital area
  • Red, dry, cracked lips and an extremely red, swollen tongue (strawberry 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
  • Irritability

2nd phase

In the second phase of the disease, your child may develop:

  • 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
  • Abdominal pain

3rd phase

In the third phase of the disease, signs and symptoms slowly go away unless complications develop. It may be as long as eight weeks before energy levels seem normal again.

When to see a doctor

If your child has a fever that lasts more than three days, contact your child's doctor, or see your child's doctor if your child has a fever along with four or more of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Redness in both eyes
  • A very red, swollen tongue
  • Redness of the palms or soles
  • Skin peeling
  • A rash
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Treating Kawasaki disease within 10 days of its onset may greatly reduce the chances of lasting damage.

Causes

No one knows what causes Kawasaki disease, but scientists don't believe the disease is contagious from person to person. A number of theories link the disease to bacteria, viruses or other environmental factors, but none has been proved. Certain genes may increase your child's susceptibility to Kawasaki disease.

Risk factors

Three things are known to increase your child's risk of developing Kawasaki disease, including:

  • Age. Children under 5 years old are most at risk of Kawasaki disease.
  • Sex. Boys are slightly more likely than girls are to develop Kawasaki disease.
  • Ethnicity. Children of Asian or Pacific Island descent, such as Japanese or Korean, have higher rates of Kawasaki disease.

Complications

Kawasaki disease is a leading cause of acquired heart disease in children, but with effective treatment, only a small percentage of children have lasting damage.

Heart complications include:

  • Inflammation of blood vessels (vasculitis), usually the coronary arteries, that supply blood to the heart
  • Inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis)
  • Heart valve problems

Any of these complications can damage your child's heart. Inflammation of the coronary arteries can lead to weakening and bulging of the artery wall (aneurysm). Aneurysms increase the risk of blood clots forming and blocking the artery, which could lead to a heart attack or cause life-threatening internal bleeding.

For a very small percentage of children who develop coronary artery problems, Kawasaki disease is fatal, even with treatment.

Oct. 27, 2016
References
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