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What is PANDAS Syndrome?

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PANDAS is an autoimmune disorder that is precipitated by common infections such as strep throat, flu, mononucleosis, and Lyme disease. Usually, a treatment of antibiotics will treat these infections adequately. However, on occasion, over the course of the infection, these illnesses may trigger unusual behavior patterns in children. This result is called PANDAS, or Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections.

Early studies toward knowledge of PANDAS attributed this disorder to streptococcal infections only. However, more recent research has uncovered a range of immune system stimulants that include the infections listed above.

Young female psychologist having serious conversation with little boy suffering from PANDAS

What causes PANDAS?

Doctors are still trying to understand the complicated nature of PANDAS and its source. It is currently estimated that PANDAS affects one in 200 children, most in the age range of four to 10 years. However, new data shows that teens and young adults can be afflicted as well.

The latest research indicates that PANDAS results from a disruption in the body’s autoimmune system. When the infections above begin to cross the blood/brain barrier, the brain tissue starts to come under attack, particularly in the region known as the basil ganglia. This area of the brain is largely responsible for habit formation, especially with regard to motor control as well as certain behaviors and emotions. As neurological inflammation increases in the brain, we observe symptoms that fall into neurological, psychological, and cognitive disorders.

What are the symptoms associated with PANDAS?

When PANDAS affects your child, you will likely notice significant changes in behavior over a short period of time, including growing anxious and moody. Along with these emotional changes, children may develop any number of the following symptoms:

  • Obsessive compulsive behavior
  • Tics in motor function or vocal emissions
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Panic attacks or other anxieties
  • Depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Attention deficit or hyperactivity
  • Joint pain
  • Emotional outbursts

It is important to note that one or more of these symptoms does not mean your child has PANDAS. We strongly suggest an evaluation to determine the cause of any of these symptoms so that a proper course of treatment can be implemented.

The PANDAS network, provides a host of great information about PANDAS as well as treatment options. They provide a great deal of quality video content from recent conferences here.

Father and son playing football outside.

Will my child recover from PANDAS?

In time, it is very likely. Most children who develop PANDAS make a complete recovery with proper treatment. Once the original infection clears, the symptoms resulting from PANDAS generally diminish as time passes.

However, it is possible that symptoms can return if your child has a recurrence of the infection that precipitated PANDAS. Accordingly, we encourage standard health and hygiene practices: wash hands regularly, avoid potential exposure to sickness, adopt a nutritious diet, etc.

If symptoms return, do contact us again. We will be able to provide a prompt assessment and initiate a treatment plan.

Can Bridgepoint help treat PANDAS?

Fortunately, there are treatments that can help children suffering from PANDAS. Of course, an accurate diagnosis is very important to identifying the proper treatment. Because of the nature of PANDAS, as well as the limited research in this area, the condition can be misdiagnosed.

At Bridgepoint, we always provide a thorough analysis to determine the true nature of any condition. PANDAS is no exception. Our therapists’ extensive training and their experience help us evaluate each individual to provide a reliable interpretation of examination results. We will devise a course of action to reduce the immediate symptoms and begin a healing process through a range of treatments. Some of the effective treatment options include:

  • Antibiotics – a first line of defense against infection
  • Anti-inflammatory medications – can calm the immune system for relief
  • Antidepressants – often provide relief from OCD symptoms
  • IVIG or Plasmapheresis – affect the antibodies working against your child
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy – can help manage OCD and similar disorders

Because PANDAS symptoms have a rapid onset, we know how important it is for your child and your family to receive prompt help. We also believe that early treatment is more effective.

If you witness a sudden change in your child’s behavior and fear that PANDAS could be the cause, contact us immediately for an assessment and a path toward healing.

Visit Our Resources Page

Bridgepoint encourages clinicians, patients, and their loved ones to research new methodologies and techniques to improve mental health and wellbeing. To assist with your own learning, we’ve put together a variety of resources on a variety of topics – including genomics – to help you on your mental health journey.

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