Kawasaki Disease: Symptoms and possible causes explained

Kawasaki disease is an illness which targets the arterial walls of major and minor blood vessels throughout the body. The origins of the disease are unknown but Tomisaku Kawasaki discovered the first case in Japan back in 1961 and published a paper with his findings on a further 50 patients in 1967.

 

The disease, also known as Kawasaki Syndrome, is an autoimmune condition which affects blood vessels including coronary arteries and is the biggest cause of acquired heart disease in young children.

 

As stated before the causes of the disease are still unknown but the first recorded cases occurred in the early 1960’s, although Kawasaki believes it first developed after World War II and has since spread across the Pacific via Hawaii where it is prevalent in the Asian community. Despite its growing presence the disease is not contagious through human to human contact.

 

Similar illnesses were recorded in the 19th century but not in Japan, and Kawasaki isn’t convinced those cases were the same as Kawasaki Disease. Cases began to increase throughout the 1970’s and in the pre-antibiotic era illnesses such as Scarlet Fever are now thought to have been milder strains of the disease.

 

[adsense]Scientists are still baffled as to the cause of the disease and as yet nothing has been scientifically proven. Theories as to its origins include bacterial developments, viral and environmental factors. One possibility that hasn’t been explored is the possibility of pollution in the oceans leading to abnormalities in fish which when consumed could lead to the disease in humans. Certainly radiation from Hiroshima or Nagasaki could have altered the genetic make-up of fish in the Japanese Pacific region and that in turn could have led to the rise of new diseases such as Kawasaki Disease.

 

Symptoms of Kawasaki Disease:

The disease comes in three distinct phases and it is important to recognise the symptoms within the first ten days in order to receive correct treatment and lessen the chances of lasting damage.

 

Phase One:

  • Fever which often exceeds 101.3 F (38.5 C) lasting up to 2 weeks
  • Conjunctivitis without discharge
  • A rash on the stomach, chest and genital areas
  • Dry, cracked lips accompanied by redness and swelling of the tongue (Strawberry tongue)
  • Swollen, red skin on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet
  • Swollen glands, mainly in the throat (lymph nodes)
  • Irritability

Phase Two:

Symptoms develop around a week into the illness

  • Peeling skin on the hands and feet
  • Aching joints
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain / cramps

Phase Three:

Symptoms from the first two phases fade away unless complications arise and the patient’s energy levels remain low for as long as eight weeks.

 

If the following symptoms become evident consult your doctor immediately:

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

Please share your thoughts on Kawasaki Disease by leaving a comment.

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images: emedicine.medscape.com; webmd.boots.com

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