Kawasaki disease, a disease that reaches the heart

The health of the little ones is an issue that takes away more than one parent's sleep. Especially when the ailment occurs in sensitive areas such as the heart or liver; or when this condition is not a simple cold. This is the case of Kawasaki disease, which affects the circulatory vessels of children and that can have consequences in the coronary arteries, that is, those that they reach the heart.

What is Kawasaki disease?

The Spanish Association of Pediatrics, AEP, defines the Kawasaki disease as a vasculitis (inflammation of blood vessels) that affects small and medium arteries that distribute blood throughout the body. The risk of this condition is that it can have consequences in the coronary arteries, those that reach the heart. The Heart Foundation suggests that coronary aneurysms may appear in 20% of cases that have not received adequate treatment.

The AEP notes that most cases of Kawasaki disease occur in children under the age of five, especially in children between 18 and 36 months. For its part, the Heart Foundation, points out that it is rare to see this type of ailments in children over eight years. As to how it originates, its exact causes are not known, but Spanish pediatricians suggest that there may be a genetic predisposition, which would explain why not all minors in the world are as likely to suffer from this condition as it is in Asia, especially in Japan, where a greater number of these cases are registered.

Symptoms of Kawasaki disease

Unfortunately, this disease has no known prevention. Therefore, parents should be alert to the appearance of symptoms that may mean that the child actually has the Kawasaki disease. The AEP points out several symptoms that could make the alarms jump: fever, red eyes but without legañas, inflammation of the tongue and lips, rash on the skin, inflammation of the ganglia of the neck and redness or swelling of the hands and feet.

Not only are there physical symptoms, but the child's mood can also give a clue to Kawasaki disease. Generally, children with this condition tend to be sad and more irritable than the rest. The AEP also points out that infants and older children have fewer symptoms, so their diagnosis will be more complicated.

The symptoms that should concern most are fever and skin spots, which should be sufficient reason to visit the pediatrician to rule out other diseases related to these signs such as measles or scarlet fever. The Heart Foundation specifies that a prolonged fever for more than five days combined with any of the other symptoms is a well-founded evidence to suspect that we are indeed facing a Kawasaki case.

A disease with a difficult diagnosis

The AEP notes that in some cases the similarity of symptoms with other conditions such as measles causes that in the first instance this is the diagnosis, so it advises that if the situation does not improve, going back to the specialist may be a good idea to confirm that it is a case of measles or something more serious. There is no specific test to confirm a positive Kawasaki, the most common is to see how many symptoms the child suffers and perform a blood test to check the inflammation of blood vessels.

A cardiac ultrasound will also help to see if a coronary aneurysm has been produced. The Heart Foundation points out that if the fever disappears after the aneurysms persist, it will be advisable to do more tests such as electrocardiograms or cardiac catheterizations to rule out more malignant diseases or to check the severity of this clinical picture.

What is the treatment of Kawasaki disease?

The AEP notes that the main treatment is to administer intravenous aspirin and gammaglobulin (antibody transfusion). This association also indicates that if this medication is started in the first ten days of the disease it considerably reduces the risk of suffering from the aforementioned coronary aneurysms. The Heart Foundation specifies that in cases where giant multiple aneurysms are developed, anticoagulation may be needed.

Damián Montero

It may interest you:

- How to take care of children's hearts

- World Heart Day: 14 curiosities about the heart to explain to children

- A breath in the hearts of children

Video: Pediatric Cardiology & Cardiac Defects | NCLEX RN Review 2019

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