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    Acquired Heart Disease

Acquired heart disease is much more rare in children than in adults. The two most common types are Kawasaki Disease and Rheumatic Heart Disease. Other conditions which can occur in children are arrythmias (heart rhythm disorders), cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease) and infective endocarditis (infection in the heart).


Kawasaki Disease

Kawasaki Disease (KD) is the leading cause of acquired heart disease in children in the United States. Despite much research, the cause continues to be unknown. There are about 2,000 cases per year in our country. The incidence of KD is higher in Japanese and other Asian children. Currently, there is no known means of prevention and it does not appear that KD is contagious.

Kawasaki Disease is characterized by high fever and irritability. Other symptoms include a red "strawberry" tongue, a rash or swelling of the fingers and toes followed by peeling, swollen glands, conjunctivitis, generalized rash of the torso or genital areas and red, chapped lips.

Rheumatic Heart Disease

Rheumatic heart disease is a serious complication of rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever can follow a "Strep throat" infection. That is why all cases of Strep throat must be treated (usually with penicillin unless you are allergic). Rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease are thought to result from an autoimmune process. The end result of rheumatic heart disease can be severe damage to the valves of the heart. The mitral and aortic valves are  most commonly affected. The pulmonary valve is rarely affected. Rheumatic fever primarily affects children, but it also can occur in adults.

Treatment of rheumatic fever consists of high dose aspirin and steroids. Prophylactic treatment to prevent further episodes of rheumatic  fever is always necessary. Usually this is accomplished with monthly penicillin injections.