Kawasaki Disease (cont.)

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What is the difference between Kawasaki's disease and Kawasaki's syndrome?

They are the same. Kawasaki's disease is also referred to as Kawasaki's syndrome. It was first described in the late 1960s in Japan by the pediatrician Tomisaku Kawasaki.

What causes Kawasaki's disease?

The cause is not known. Microorganisms and toxins have been suspected, but none has been identified to date. Kawasaki's disease is not felt to be a contagious illness. Genetic factors and the immune system seem to play roles in the disease, which is characterized by immune activation.

Who develops Kawasaki's disease?

Kawasaki disease typically affects children under 5 years of age. Only rarely does it affect children over 8 years of age, in which case it is sometimes referred to as atypical Kawasaki's disease.

How can Kawasaki's disease cause serious complications?

Children with Kawasaki's disease can develop inflammation of the arteries of various parts of the body. This inflammation of the arteries is called vasculitis. Arteries that can be affected include the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle (the coronary arteries). Vasculitis can cause weakening of the blood vessels and lead to areas of vessel widening (aneurysms). Coronary aneurysms have been reported in up to 25% of those with Kawasaki's disease.

Because of the potential for heart injury and coronary aneurysms, special tests are performed to examine the heart. Children are typically evaluated with an electrocardiogram (EKG) and an ultrasound test of the heart (echocardiogram). Other arteries that can become inflamed include the arteries of the lungs, neck, and abdomen. These effects can lead to breathing problems, headaches, and pain in the belly, respectively. Blood tests to measure the degree of inflammation (such as C-reactive protein, or CRP, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate, or ESR) are often used to monitor the activity of the disease.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/11/2012

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