About Kawasaki Disease

Leading Cause of Acquired Heart Disease in Children

Kawasaki Disease

Kawasaki disease (KD) is the leading cause of acquired heart disease in children in North America. It is an acute illness that causes inflammation in the walls of blood vessels throughout the body, including the coronary arteries which supply blood to the heart.

The majority of children who develop KD are 5 years of age or younger (75-80%), although it can affect older children and teenagers. Currently, the incidence of KD in Canada is estimated yearly to be close to 30 per 100,000 children under the age of 5. There is a higher incidence in boys than in girls.

Early Signs & Symptoms

  • Persistent high fever lasting five or more days
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Redness of the palms and soles of the feet
  • Red bloodshot eyes
  • Red cracked lips and red swollen tongue (“strawberry tongue”)
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Body rash, often worse in the groin
  • Irritability

Other Symptoms That May Develop:

  • Joint pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Low energy
  • Peeling skin on hands or feet

Treatment & Causes

Treatment within 10 days of the start of the fever is highly effective in the prevention of coronary artery complications and most children will make a complete recovery without lasting damage. Without treatment, approximately 25% of children will develop some abnormalities of the coronary arteries.

The cause of KD is unknown, although it is thought to be caused by an infectious agent that creates an intense immune reaction. Genetic predisposition/susceptibility may also play a role. Currently, there are no specific diagnostic tests for KD and the diagnosis is largely a process of ruling out diseases that cause similar signs and symptoms. The majority of cases are diagnosed in winter and early spring. There is no evidence that KD is contagious.