Kawasaki disease or Kawasaki syndrome: symptoms

Kawasaki disease or Kawasaki syndrome is a rare disease that was first reported in Japan in 1967. A fever that lasts for a long time, which can affect the heart and blood vessels. It mainly occurs in children under the age of five and is slightly more common in boys than in girls. One of the symptoms of Kawasaki disease is that the hands become red and the skin on the fingertips may peel. It is important that the diagnosis is made early, as the disease can become life-threatening. What are the causes and how can the disease be treated? What is the prognosis?

Article content

  • Kawasaki disease or Kawasaki syndrome
  • Causes of Kawasaki disease
  • Symptoms of Kawasaki disease
  • Complications of Kawasaki disease
  • Diagnosis of Kawasaki disease
  • Treatment of Kawasaki disease
  • Kawasaki disease prognosis
  • Child & Disability Fund
  • Corona and Kawasaki disease

Kawasaki disease or Kawasaki syndrome

The disease is also known as: mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome, infantile periarteritis nodosa. The disease was first described in 1967 by Dr. Tomisaku Kawasaki. He mentioned the following symptoms: increased body temperature, rash on the skin, cervical lymphadenitis, red eyes, overfilling of blood capillaries, inflamed lips and oral cavity. Furthermore, erythema and edema of hands and feet. The disease is now more common in Western countries and slightly more common in people of Asian and African descent. Kawasaki disease is the leading cause of acquired, i.e. non-congenital, heart disease in children.

Causes of Kawasaki disease

The cause is not known, but it is thought that an infection with a bacteria or virus is to blame. There seems to be a connection with the time of year: more common in winter and early spring.

Symptoms of Kawasaki disease

The first symptoms occur over the course of several weeks:

  • Fever that lasts for a long time, more than five days;
  • Pain in the throat;
  • Glands in the neck may be swollen, including in the armpits and groin;
  • A rash may occur, which looks spotty and has a pink color;
  • Red palms and soles of the feet, often the skin on the tips of the fingers and toes peels;
  • The lips are broken, painful and swollen;
  • The eyes may hurt, itch and watery fluid may be discharged.

Complications of Kawasaki disease

Kawasaki disease can cause serious problems . For example, dilations may occur in the wall of the coronary arteries. These arteries supply the heart muscle with blood. Kawasaki disease can also lead to inflamed heart muscle or damaged blood vessels.

Diagnosis of Kawasaki disease

It is important that the diagnosis is made early , as the disease can become life-threatening. In about one in five cases of Kawasaki disease, damage to the heart occurs. The symptoms of Kawasaki disease can be very similar to those of a cold, so making the diagnosis is not so easy. Definitely go to the doctor if a child has an elevated body temperature that lasts longer than three days, but sooner if you don’t trust it! If the GP suspects that it is Kawasaki disease, the child will be admitted to hospital immediately. Blood tests will probably be done. Ultrasound can be used to determine whether the heart and blood vessels are affected.

Treatment of Kawasaki disease

Treatment has the best results if it is started within ten days of the onset of the disease. A child is given immunoglobulins through an IV. Immunoglobulin contains antibodies that fight the infection. It also ensures that the child is less likely to develop an aneurysm and inflammation of the heart muscle. Usually a child is given high doses of aspirin until the elevated body temperature subsides. Then lower doses for a few more weeks. The Emma Children’s Hospital/AMC is the largest treatment and knowledge center for Kawasaki disease in the Netherlands.

Kawasaki disease prognosis

Most children with Kawasaki disease are cured within three weeks. After healing, monitoring is important in the following months. Echocardiography may also be performed again. Aneurysm and myocarditis usually resolve after a few months. Kawasaki disease is fatal in one in fifty cases. Children who are cured may develop coronary artery disease later in life. However, the chance of this is small.

Child & Disability Fund

Kawasaki disease is difficult to recognize and can cause death. That is why the Child & Handicap Fund supports scientific research into Kawasaki disease by Amsterdam UMC and the Emma Children’s Hospital. It is very important that the disease is detected at the earliest possible stage.

Corona and Kawasaki disease

On May 15, the WHO (World Health Organization) indicated that they will investigate whether there is a link between COVID-19 and a rare childhood disease, the symptoms of which are reminiscent of Kawasaki disease. The childhood disease has emerged in Europe and the United States, and several children have already died from it. There are also children in the Netherlands with symptoms reminiscent of Kawasaki disease. The complaints that may occur: severe pain in the abdomen, stomach and intestinal complaints, fever. Some children had heart and lung problems.