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Why everyone needs to know about Kawasaki disease

January 26th, 2015 marks the 5th annual Kawasaki Disease Awareness Day.  I know many parents of KD survivors (myself included) and survivors themselves who are KD advocates and raise awareness on a daily basis.  I am sure there are people that wonder why we are so passionate about this cause, and given that it is considered rare, why it is such a big deal.  These are the reasons why everyone needs to know about Kawasaki disease:

1. It is often misdiagnosed.  Many of the symptoms associated with Kawasaki disease are also associated with numerous other childhood illnesses, making it difficult for doctors to determine the true cause of the symptoms.  To complicate matters even further, the symptoms may not show up at the same time (as in Isaiah's case) or many of the symptoms may not show up at all (incomplete KD).  Currently, there is no diagnostic test for Kawasaki disease.  It is typically diagnosed using a combination of clinical features, blood work (looking for elevated levels of certain components) and echocardiography.  Unfortunately, many children are misdiagnosed and sent home before these tests can even be run.  

(For more information on why KD is so commonly misdiagnosed, including links to the supporting scientific articles, please visit this great blog post by a fellow KD mom: http://thegreyseeker.blogspot.ca/2013/06/dissecting-kawasaki-disease-part-1.html)

2. There is a highly effective treatment, but there is a small window of opportunity for it to be effective.  Although it has not been determined what causes Kawasaki disease, the good news is that a highly effective treatment is available.  Treatment with intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) typically "relieves acute inflammation and has been shown to reduce the rate of coronary aneurysms from greater than 25% in untreated patients to 1-5% in treated patients. Maximal benefits are seen when IVIG is given within the first 10 days of the illness." (According to Medscape.)  This means that if a child is diagnosed in a timely manner and administered IVIG within the first 10 days of having KD, their chances of developing coronary complications is greatly reduced.  Kawasaki disease can resolve on its own, without IVIG treatment, but the risk of the child developing coronary aneurysms is greater.  This means that timely diagnosis is very important!

3. It can cause permanent heart damage.  Kawasaki disease causes inflammation in small to medium-sized arteries, but the inflammation is most pronounced in the coronary arteries.  The coronary arteries are the arteries that supply blood to your heart muscles, so that it can contract and pump blood throughout your body.  In most cases, the inflammation in the arteries resolves over time, as the child recovers from KD.  However, in some cases the inflammation can cause permanent coronary aneurysms, which are areas where the artery wall balloons or bulges out.  This ballooning of the artery causes the blood to swirl in those areas and increases the risk of formation of blood clots.  If a blood clot develops it can result in blockage of the artery and a heart attack.  Children that develop permanent aneurysms face a lifetime of blood thinning medications (with the associated activity restrictions), frequent medical exams, invasive testing, the always looming possibility of surgical intervention and constant uncertainty about their health. Tragically, I know of children that have passed away as a result of the aneurysms caused by Kawasaki disease, because they were never diagnosed or diagnosed too late.

The bottom line is that KD can result in serious heart damage and even death, but thankfully a treatment does exist to reduce the risks of this happening. However, the correct diagnosis needs to be made before this treatment can be given.  In order to receive the correct diagnosis, you need to know the symptoms.

The common symptoms of Kawasaki disease are:

Fever that lasts for five or more days
Rash, often worse in the groin area
Red bloodshot eyes, without drainage or crusting
Bright red, swollen, cracked lips, "strawberry" tongue, which appears with shiny bright red spots after the top coating sloughs off
Swollen hands and feet and redness of the palms and soles of the feet
Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

It is important to remember that all of these symptoms may not be present or may not be present at the same time.  If you child has a prolonged fever and two or more of these symptoms, be sure to ask your doctor if it could be Kawasaki disease.

Many little hearts can be saved by simply educating yourself and others about Kawasaki disease.  Kawasaki disease is highly treatable and just knowing the symptoms and voicing your concerns could save your child from living with acquired heart disease for the rest of their life. By sharing this information with others you may even save a child's life.  In this case, knowledge really is power.



Comments

  1. I like your blog
    I would be glad if u could comment on my blog too. Since my blog is new just 21 days old. I have little experience.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Its #healthanddisease12.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Very well written and informative article, thank you :-)

    TOSHIBA PLT-805AT

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yeah it's good article and thank you sharing post, Kawasaki is the name of a Japanese scientist who discovered a disease called KAWASAKI’S DISEASE that was very prevalent in Japan.
    This disease occurs,still trying to figure out the cause of this disease and two main theories that have been put put forth are either it could occur after some other infectious disease or some immune system abnormality Kawasaki disease typically presents as fever, rash all over the body, pain in neck, red eye (conjunctivitis), strawberry coloured tongue, red lips, enlarged neck glands and typically even pain in joints.

    I hope this helpful for you.
    http://www.pediatriconcall.com/fordoctor/Diseases_a_z/article.aspx?artid=248

    ReplyDelete

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