There are really only two ways that children end up with heart disease – either they are born with some type of congenital defect or the disease is acquired through other means such as illness or even some other type of disease which could harm the heart or blood vessels, sort of a domino effect. One of these illnesses that can affect a child's heart is called Kawasaki disease.
Kawasaki disease is a syndrome of the lymph nodes and is presented in the form of fever, swelling of the feet and hands, swollen lymph glands, rash, swelling and pain in the throat, mouth and lips and even redness of the eyes. The symptoms of this disease are not usually serious but there are some heart complications that could result in the long-term. It could be a few years before the heart problems present themselves or even just a few weeks.
A brief history
A Dr. Tomisaku Kawasaki recognized the disease as such in the late 1960's, even though it has likely been around for much longer. This Japanese pediatrician recognized that the disease occurred quite a bit in Japan than in other countries around the world. It is not only an Asian disease as it can strike children in almost any ethnic or racial group.
In the U.S., Kawasaki disease is one of the top causes of heart disease in children, especially those under the age of 6. For some reason, Kawasaki disease afflicts mostly those under the age of 5 and boys are more likely to get it than girls. This disease tends to confine itself to outbreaks in localized areas, usually in the spring or latter part of the winter season but it is not totally confined to those times.
The damages that could result
Approximately 20% of the children who contract Kawasaki disease end up developing some type of heart problem as a result. The primary damage usually occurs in the coronary arteries that supply the heart with blood and sometimes even the heart muscle itself. An aneurysm could occur in a coronary artery that is weakened by the disease. This aneurysm in the blood vessel is actually an enlarged area of the vessel wall.
Babies under one year of age are at the greatest risk of the disease because their heart is not fully formed or strong enough. Kawasaki disease typically runs its course in children within two weeks or so and most do recover quite well with few ill effects. However, not much is known as to whether some of these children who later develop heart disease as an adult could attribute part of the reason to the Kawasaki disease. It has been somewhat hard to quantify it.
There is not much known about the cause of Kawasaki disease. Most medical professionals believe that it is not contagious nor is it genetic. A virus is the likely cause of the disease but just being exposed to that particular virus does not necessarily mean all children will get it. Like most viral infections, there is nothing you can do to treat Kawasaki disease other than make the children who contract it comfortable and just hope that heart disease does not follow.