The 411 on PANS & PANDA

PANS and PANDAS – no, these aren’t the latest acronyms for things like “be right back”. These are acronyms for syndromes that were just discovered in the 90s. How? Doctors were studying childhood-onset OCD. Some of the children they observed had a relatively spontaneous display of symptoms. After digging further, they realized that the symptoms were due to infections, metabolic disturbances and/ or other inflammatory reactions.

Since the symptoms of PANS and PANDAS are often misidentified as being a different disorder, it’s important that parents know what to look out for. The most easily identifiable sign of PANS in children is a seemingly overnight display of neuropsychiatric symptoms. These symptoms may mimic those of OCD/eating disorders. Moodiness, irritability, anxiety, and even immature behaviors (like “baby talk”) are also signs of PANS. While children with PANS and PANDAS often show similar symptoms, the key difference is that children with PANDAS will test positive for a specific trigger, like strep, peri-anal strep or even scarlet fever.

It’s still unknown just how common these two syndromes are. Many doctors diagnose children with disorders like OCD without turning over enough stones to get to the root cause. That said, if doctors do identify PANS or PANDAS early enough there’s a chance that the child can go back to functioning normally.

PANS and PANDAS are relatively new, so research is still being done on treatment options. So far, cognitive behavioral therapy and/or medications may be helpful for treating children with PANDAS. If the case is acute and has been caused by the strep infection, antibiotics may be all that is needed for treatment. That said, some research has shown that it’s helpful to continue with antibiotics to prevent PANDAS episodes from reoccurring.

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