Kawasaki Disease Often Missed in Kids

Lack of diagnosis can lead to serious problems later

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WEDNESDAY, Aug. 11, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Many pediatricians fail to diagnose Kawasaki disease in children younger than 6 months and older than 8 years, an oversight that can lead to potentially fatal coronary problems later.

University of California, San Diego, researchers report the finding in the Aug. 10 issue of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.

Previous research has found that a delayed diagnosis of Kawasaki disease is a major risk factor in the development of coronary problems that can lead to heart muscle damage and deadly aneurysms.

"Despite the availability of effective treatment for Kawasaki disease, children continue to needlessly suffer preventable coronary artery damage associated with the disease," study author Dr. Jane Burns, a professor of pediatrics, said in a prepared statement.

"Numerous global studies have shown children can be at risk as early as 1 month to their teens. General pediatricians and pediatric infectious disease specialists need to consider Kawasaki disease when examining all children with prolonged fever accompanied by rash or red eyes, regardless of the patient's age," Burns said.

Kawasaki disease, which is reported in about 5,000 children a year in the United States, is characterized by inflammation of blood vessels throughout the body. Symptoms include high fever, rashes, bloodshot eyes, swelling of the hands and feet, redness of the mucous membranes in the mouth, throat and lips, and swollen neck lymph nodes.

The disease and symptoms are treatable with gamma globulin. If treatment is started within the first 10 days, heart damage can be prevented and the patient can make a full recovery. Among patients who don't receive treatment, as many as 25 percent develop lethal coronary problems.

The cause of Kawasaki disease is unknown. It's most common among children of Asian descent, and affects males almost twice as much as females.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about Kawasaki disease.

SOURCE: University of California, San Diego, news release, Aug. 10, 2004

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