Kawasaki disease is a condition that involves inflammation of the blood vessels. It is typically diagnosed in young children, but older children and adults can also develop this condition. Kawasaki disease begins with a fever that lasts at least 5 days. Other classic symptoms may include red eyes, lips, and mouth; rash; swollen and red hands and feet; and swollen lymph nodes. Sometimes the condition affects the coronary arteries (which carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart). This can lead to serious heart problems. Kawasaki disease occurs most often in people of Asian and Pacific Island descent. The cause of Kawasaki disease is unknown. An infection along with genetic factors may be involved. Treatment includes intravenous gamma globulin and high doses of aspirin in a hospital setting.
Last updated: 2/3/2016
What causes Kawasaki disease?
The cause of Kawasaki disease isn't known. The body's response to a virus or infection combined with genetic factors may cause the disease. However, no specific virus or infection has been found, and the role of genetics is not well understood. Kawasaki disease is not contagious; it can't be passed from one child to another.
Last updated: 2/3/2016
Can Kawasaki disease diagnosed in childhood have later effects on adults?
Although Kawasaki disease is generally self-limiting, 10-15% of children may develop problems in their coronary arteries, even after being treated with aspirin and intravenous gamma globulin (purified antibodies--also known as IVIG). Inflammation of the heart muscle (myocardium), heart valves (endocardium) and/or sac surrounding the heart (pericardium) may occur acutely (at the onset of the disease) or many years later. The most common late complication is the persistence of coronary artery aneurysms (weakened areas of blood vessel that balloons out). Such aneurysms can lead to heart attack at a young age or later in life.
In addition, adults may present with ischemic heart disease (ischemic means that an organ, in this case the heart muscle, has not received enough blood and oxygen) as a sequela (late effects) of unrecognized Kawasaki disease in childhood.
Last updated: 10/28/2015
How might adults with a history of Kawasaki disease in childhood be managed?
Long-term follow-up in individuals with Kawasaki disease is recommended. The goal of long-term management is to prevent a block of bloodflow to the heart, caused by a blood clot in the coronary artery (coronary thrombosis) and to treat any resulting reduction of blood flow and oxygen to the heart (myocardial ischemia). There are few studies that have been published to assist in creating guidelines for management. It has been suggested that the management should vary depending on the severity of coronary artery involvement.