Kawasaki Disease | Symptoms and Causes

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Contact the Kawasaki Disease Program

What are the symptoms of Kawasaki disease?

The symptoms of Kawasaki disease usually appear in three phases, and can change or evolve over time, making diagnosis challenging.

Symptoms may include:

  • swelling or redness in the hands or feet
  • rash on the torso or groin
  • bloodshot eyes
  • red, cracked lips and a swollen, red tongue
  • enlarged lymph nodes in the neck
  • irritability
  • joint pain
  • peeling skin on hands and feet
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • enlarged liver or gallbladder

It is possible to have Kawasaki disease without having all of the symptoms. Such cases are called incomplete or atypical Kawasaki disease. This is most common in infants younger than 6 months.

What are the causes of Kawasaki disease?

Despite decades of research, the causes of Kawasaki disease are still unknown. We suspect there could be multiple reasons that people develop this condition. The disease is not contagious (spread from person to person). Outbreaks have been reported in waves within geographical areas, and the disease tends to occur more frequently in winter and early spring.

Because no bacteria or virus has been proven to cause Kawasaki disease, some experts believe that Kawasaki disease is an immune reaction that children may have to a variety of infectious agents. Genetic susceptibility may play a role.

Kawasaki disease occurs more often in Japan than in any other country. Children of Asian or Asian-American heritage have a higher risk of Kawasaki disease regardless of where they live — although Kawasaki disease can occur in any racial or ethnic group.

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