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What Is Kawasaki Disease?

Kawasaki (KAH-wah-SAH-ke) disease is a rare childhood disease. It's a form of a condition called vasculitis (vas-kyu-LI-tis). This condition involves inflammation of the blood vessels.

In Kawasaki disease, the walls of the blood vessels throughout the body become inflamed. The disease can affect any type of blood vessel in the body, including the arteries, veins, and capillaries.

Sometimes Kawasaki disease affects the coronary arteries, which carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart. As a result, some children who have Kawasaki disease may develop serious heart problems.

Overview

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 isn't known.

The disease can't be passed from one child to another. Your child won't get it from close contact with a child who has the disease. Also, if your child has the disease, he or she can't pass it to another child.

Kawasaki disease affects children of all races and ages and both genders. It occurs most often in children of Asian and Pacific Island descent. The disease is more likely to affect boys than girls. Most cases occur in children younger than 5 years old.

One of the main symptoms of Kawasaki disease is a fever that lasts longer than 5 days. The fever remains high even after treatment with standard childhood fever medicines.

Children who have the disease also may have red eyes, red lips, and redness on the palms of their hands and soles of their feet. These are all signs of inflamed blood vessels.

Early treatment helps reduce the risk of Kawasaki disease affecting the coronary arteries and causing serious problems.

Outlook

Kawasaki disease can't be prevented. However, most children who have the disease usually recover within weeks of getting symptoms. Further problems are rare.

The disease affects some children's coronary arteries, which can cause serious problems. These children need long-term care and treatment.

Researchers continue to look for the cause of Kawasaki disease and better ways to diagnose and treat it. They also hope to learn more about long-term health risks, if any, for people who have had the disease.

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September 20, 2011