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Is Kawasaki An Autoimmune Disease & Who Is At Risk?

Kawasaki disease is an illness of kids. It involves mucus membrane and walls of the blood vessels. It affects children mostly in the age between 1 to 5 years. However, it can affect anyone at any age. It is not a serious disease. Its causes are not known. It appears in late winter and spring season. Its symptoms include fever, swelling of lips, legs and hands, skin rash, strawberry tongue, joint pain and many more. It is one of the leading causes of heart disease in children. It may cause coronary artery disease, coronary artery aneurysms, and others.

Is Kawasaki Disease An Autoimmune Disease?

Kawasaki disease affects arteries, veins, capillaries, and lymph nodes. It does not affect the heart directly but as it affects the arteries of the heart, it can lead to heart complications. Its exact causes are not explored and understood properly. It is assumed that autoimmunity is one of the causes of the disease. Autoimmunity means the body’s own immune system attacks its own healthy tissue considering them as foreign bodies that can cause illness. In the case of Kawasaki disease, the overactive or exaggerated immune system of the body considers its own walls of blood vessels, mucous membrane or lymph nodes as invaders and attacks them. Thus, Kawasaki disease is an autoimmune disease. However, there is no strong evidence to support this fact. (1)

Another reason for the occurrence of this disease is an abnormal reaction of the body against viral or bacterial infection. This infection can be of multiple types that mean infection can be both viral and bacterial infections at a time. However, no specific species of virus or bacteria is identified.

Kawasaki disease is not a hereditary or contagious disease. It cannot be transmitted to others through any type of contact. However, it is found that more than one children of the same family can develop this disease. Thus, there can be a genetic predisposition for this disease.

Who Is At Risk?

Age– Kawasaki disease is a childhood illness that can develop at any age among children. It is more common in children who are in the age between 1 to 5 years.

Sex– young boys are more affected than young girls.

Race– it develops in people of Asian descent, especially Chinese or Japanese race.

Genetic Factors– it can appear in children of parents who have Kawasaki disease. This is linked to inherited genes with no confirmed evidence.

Environmental Factors– environmental chemicals or toxins can trigger this disease. It occurs in months January to March and August to October. Its peak incidence is seen from August to October.

Symptoms Of Kawasaki Disease

Early Stage Symptoms

The early stage of Kawasaki disease may end in two weeks. Its symptoms include a fever that may remain for five or more days, swelling of lips, the appearance of rashes on the torso and groin, bloodshot eyes, strawberry tongue and swelling in hands, feet and lymph nodes.

Late Stage Symptoms

It comes after two weeks and it causes the peeling of the skin in sheets, temporary arthritis, vomiting, pain in the abdomen and temporary loss of hearing.

Kawasaki disease is also known as Kawasaki syndrome or mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome is a disease that affects children. It was first described by Tomisaku Kawasaki in the year 1967. This disease existed for a long time but it was noticed by Kawasaki for the first time. It usually develops in children of age under 5 years. However, it can affect children and teenagers belonging to any race or ethnic background. Children of Asian descent are more affected by this disease.


Kawasaki disease is a rare childhood disease. It is not a contagious or inherited disease. It is considered as an autoimmunity disease because the immune system attacks its own healthy cells such as mucous membrane, blood vessels, and lymph nodes. However, there is no reliable evidence for this fact.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30183655

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 17, 2019

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