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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Kawasaki disease


Other Names for this Disease
  • Mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome
  • Kawasaki syndrome
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Your Question

Eighteen months ago my daughter was diagnosed with Kawasaki syndrome. Although she has recovered medically, she appears to have some behavioral and developmental problems. Can Kawasaki syndrome cause behavioral problems or slow a child's development?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is Kawasaki disease?

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.[1] 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.[2] The cause of Kawasaki disease is unknown.[1][2] An infection along with genetic factors may be involved.[2] Treatment includes intravenous gamma globulin and high doses of aspirin in a hospital setting.[1][2]  
Last updated: 2/3/2016

Can Kawasaki disease cause behavioral problems or slow a child's development?

Both generalized and localized central nervous system symptoms have been reported in Kawasaki disease. While neurologic complications or symptoms may occur in a small number of patients with Kawasaki disease, the vast majority escape serious central nervous system damage and data suggests that milder central nervous system effects, in the form of cognitive and academic difficulties are rare.[3] In some cases, however, Kawasaki disease can be associated with significant behavioral symptoms.[4]

A study conducted in 2000 by WJ King et al. found that cognitive development and academic performance were not significantly affected by Kawasaki disease. This study did find, however that individuals who had previous Kawasaki disease experienced significantly more behavior problems than their healthy siblings. These problems were predominantly internalizing and reflected a cluster of specific difficulties including somatic complaints, anxious-depressed behavior, and social problems. These children were also rated as having significantly more attention difficulties than their healthy siblings. A large proportion of parents in this study also perceived that the episode of Kawasaki disease had a long-lasting effect on their child, although this perception was often vague and was not related to the increased risk of behavior problems.[3]

The reported behavioral difficulties may be due to residual central nervous system effects of the disease process, the experience of an acute illness and hospitalization, and/or continued family anxiety after the illness. Heightened parental anxieties about children who have completely recovered from an illness can lead to overprotective relationships that may contribute to difficulties in the psychological development of their children.[3]
Last updated: 7/5/2013

Are there resources where I can connect with other parents whose child has developmental or behavior issues following Kawasaki disease?

Yes. The Kawasaki Disease Foundation offers a program called KDF Bridges, where families with children who have Kawasaki Disease are matched with trained volunteers who have either had children with Kawasaki Disease or are adults who have recovered from Kawasaki Disease. There are several families listed on this web site who describe cognitive, behavioral, or developmental problems in their children and offer some suggestions for coping.
Last updated: 7/5/2013

References
Other Names for this Disease
  • Mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome
  • Kawasaki syndrome
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.