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Kawasaki disease

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Kawasaki Disease is a rare form of vasculitis disease which usually occurs during childhood. The name came from the person who founded it in 1967, Dr. Tomisaku Kawasaki from Japan. The condition is also known as mucocutaneous node disease, lymph node syndrome, Kawasaki syndrome or infantile polyarteritis. It affects several organs such as blood vessels, skin and mucous membranes, lymph nodes and the heart. There is no known cause and preventive measures for the disease and it can progress to serious complications if left unattended. Kawasaki Disease seems to be non-contagious however.

KAWASAKI DISEASE DEFINITION

Children under 5 years old are usually affected with the disorder. Majority of patients come from Asian countries like Japan and Korea. 175 out of every 100,000 Japanese kids and 19 out of every 100,000 American kids are also diagnosed with the condition. There are unique signs and symptoms to watch out for in order to detect the problem early and provide the necessary measures needed to avoid further complications. Organs affected by the disease become inflamed which disrupts proper oxygen and blood circulation throughout the body. Heart problems are very common developments.

KAWASAKI DISEASE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Kawasaki Disease or Kawasaki Syndrome is comprised of various signs and symptoms, some of which may be reminiscent to that of other diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, scarlet fever and measles. Doctors will conduct various diagnostic test to rule out these other conditions. The most telltale sign of the disease would be the presence of strawberry tongue described as the tongue being swollen, coated in white with big red bumps. During the first phase, fever will occur at around 40 degrees Celsius that lasts for 1 to 2 weeks. The patient may confirm diagnosis if fever persists for at least 5 days together with other symptoms like conjunctivitis or extremely red eyes with discharge, rash on the body trunk or genital area, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, red cracked lips, strawberry tongue and swollen red skin on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

During the second phase, patients may develop joint pain, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, large sheets of skin peeling particularly on the fingertips and toes or desquamation. During the third phase, signs and symptoms will gradually subside then disappear unless the disease develops further complications. Patients may also manifest other symptoms such as red mucous membranes in the mouth, irritability, tachycardia or rapid heartbeat. The high grade fever is usually non-responsive to antipyretic medications like paracetamol and ibuprofen. Early detection of symptoms and early treatment will help a lot in reducing disease duration within a few days.

KAWASAKI DISEASE CAUSES

There is no known cause for Kawasaki Disease. There are however, predisposing probabilities among a number of individuals particularly in terms of race, gender and age. Most cases occur in children 5 years old and below and very rarely can the disease occur in those over 8 years of age. Children of Asian and Pacific Island descent seem to be more at risk for developing the condition. Kawasaki Disease is also shown to be 1.5 times more likely to occur in young boys compared to young girls.
kawasaki disease
Image: Kawasaki disease


Some experts are also trying to consider the possibility of immunological causes such as a toxin or antigen that may be acting in the body of immature individuals whose systems are still developing. Virus and other infective pathogens are also suspected. Some suggest that the body may be producing unknown immune cells to try and fight off early infections. This has still no scientific basis. Genetic predisposition does not seem to play a role in disease development. The condition is also non-contagious so it cannot be passed on from one person to the next.

KAWASAKI DISEASE TREATMENT

Early treatment is prescribed as soon as diagnosis is confirmed, preferably when the patient is still having fever for a few days. Initial treatment approaches intend to reduce fever and inflammation as well as protect the heart. Some initial medications include aspirin to be taken for 6 to 8 weeks to reduce fever, rash, inflammation and pain experiences. Blood clots are also prevented to prevent blood vessel and heart complications. Gamma globulin is an immune protein which can be infused intravenously to prevent coronary artery problems. Some children having flu or chickenpox should steer clear of aspirin to prevent Reyes’ Syndrome development. Proper treatment can help the child get well within 24 hours but the disease can last up to 12 weeks if left untreated.

The patient’s heart condition needs to be monitored constantly to ensure that no complications have occurred. The heart is kept in a good functional state through anticoagulant medications like warfarin and heparin to prevent clots. Coronary artery angioplasty is a procedure that widens arteries that have narrowed down reducing blood flow to the heart. Stent placement may also be done which involves implanting a device to keep the clogged artery wide enough for proper circulation. Coronary artery bypass graft involves rerouting blood from a damaged or diseased artery to another healthy blood vessel.


High doses of aspirin are indicated during the initial phases of treatment. Once symptoms subside dosage will also be reduced to prevent blood clots. Once the disease is gone, children have to follow a healthy diet, get regular exercise and rest well to lower risks of cardiovascular problems in the future. If the disease reached a point where it affects the coronary arteries and the heart, maintenance care and treatment measures may be required which involves ongoing medications, therapies and heart monitoring.

KAWASAKI DISEASE PREVENTION

Kawasaki Disease cannot be prevented since there is no known main cause for it. Parents of children who are considered to be more at risk for developing the condition need to be cautious about early signs and symptoms in order to provide immediate treatment. Prevention of complications is also vital since the disease is considered very treatable especially during the early stages. Healthy lifestyle is indicated for all growing children which involves intake of nutritious food and drinks, regular physical activity and adequate rest.
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