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Kawasaki Disease

Kawasaki Disease

What is Kawasaki Disease?

Kawasaki disease is a syndrome with unknown causes that results in a fever and mostly affects children under the age of five. It's usually a form of vasculitis, where blood vessels throughout the body become inflamed. Patients typically have fevers for more than five days, which are not helped by regular medications. Other symptoms include swollen lymph nodes in the neck, red eyes, and dry spots on the hands and feet. Within three weeks of developing Kawasaki disease, patients may notice their skin peeling from the palms and soles of the feet. The skin regrows after this time and recovery typically occurs. In some children, coronary artery aneurysms may form within three weeks of the onset of Kawasaki disease.

What is Kawasaki disease?

Kawasaki disease is a medical condition that causes the blood vessels in your body to swell and become inflamed. The exact cause of this illness is unknown, though it's been speculated to have something to do with an infection, due to its sudden onset and high fever accompanied by swelling lymph nodes. This isn't considered a contagious disease.

Without treatment, Kawasaki disease can result in serious complications that may not be recognized at first. The symptoms often go away with time (the child recovers), but without medical evaluation and treatment serious consequences can occur.

Children under the age of five are often affected by Kawasaki disease. The majority of people diagnosed are less than two years old. Sometimes, Kawasaki disease can affect older kids, too. It's most commonly seen in boys and it's more likely to occur in the winter and spring months.

Cause of Kawasaki Disease

The cause of Kawasaki disease is unknown, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some research suggests that the disease may be triggered by an infection, such as a viral infection, but this has not been proven.

Symptoms of Kawasaki Disease

There are a few different symptoms that are associated with Kawasaki disease. The most common symptom is a fever that lasts for more than five days. Other symptoms include:

-Rash

-Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

-Red, irritated eyes

-Swollen hands and feet

-Peeling skin on the fingers and toes

If your child is exhibiting any of these symptoms, it's important to contact your doctor immediately.

How to diagnose Kawasaki Disease?

There is no one definitive test for Kawasaki disease, so diagnosis usually relies on a combination of clinical signs and symptoms. In general, doctors will look for:

-Greater than five-day duration of a fever

-Rash

-Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

-Swollen hands and feet

-Red eyes or conjunctivitis

In addition, blood tests may be done to check for inflammation and an abnormal increase in white blood cells. An echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) may also be ordered to check for heart damage.

What are the Treatments for Kawasaki Disease?

There is no specific cure for Kawasaki disease, but fortunately, most children who develop the condition make a full recovery with treatment. Treatment typically involves hospitalization so that your child can be monitored closely and receive intensive care, if needed.

The main goals of treatment are to reduce inflammation in the arteries and prevent complications. Treatment typically includes:

Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG). This is a blood product that contains healthy antibodies that help fight infection. IVIG is thought to help by reducing inflammation.

Aspirin. This medication helps reduce inflammation and lowers the risk of developing coronary artery aneurysms. Your child will likely take aspirin for at least six to eight weeks after diagnosis. Children younger than 18 months old may be given acetaminophen instead of aspirin because of the risk of Reye syndrome.

Corticosteroids. These powerful anti-inflammatory medications may be used if your child does not respond well to IVIG or has certain heart complications.

How can you prevent Kawasaki Disease?

There is no certain way to prevent Kawasaki disease, however, early diagnosis and treatment is critical. Some tips to help prevent the disease include:

-Get prompt medical care if your child has a fever lasting more than 5 days, especially if they also have a rash or swollen lymph nodes

-Be up-to-date on immunizations, specifically with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine

-Avoid exposure to sick people, especially if your child is under 5 years old

-Practice good hygiene habits such as washing hands often

When to consult a doctor?

If your child has a fever for more than five days and you notice any of the other symptoms listed above, it’s important to consult a doctor right away. Early diagnosis and treatment is critical to preventing serious complications from Kawasaki disease.

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