What is PANDAS?
PANDAS is an acronym for “Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections”. It is an autoimmune disorder in pre-pubertal children that affects the brain and causes significant neurological and psychological symptoms, including include obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and tic disorders such as Tourette’s disorder. The autoimmune process begins when the child’s immune system attacks its own brain tissue suddenly and dramatically after a strep throat infection or scarlet fever (i.e. strep throat with a red, rough, fine sandpaper-like rash). 1, 2
In some children it is thought that their OCD behaviors or tics may be triggered by the PANDAS autoimmune process and in other children their existing symptoms may be worsened after a strep throat infection.
Symptoms that may be associated with PANDAS that begin after a strep infection3:
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Tics (motor and verbal)
- Sensory Processing Disorder
- Age regression
- Choreiform movements
- Mood fluctuations
- Changes in handwriting
- Personality changes
- Oppositional Defiant Disorder
- Deterioration in math skills
- Separation anxiety
- Urinary incontinence, urgency and increased frequency (daytime or nighttime)
There may be a genetic susceptibility to PANDAS. One pilot study found a correlation between sensitivity to post-strep infection disorders (Rheumatic Fever and Sydenham Chorea) and relatives whosuffer from Tourette’s/Tics and OCD compared to those who don’t have post-strep infection disorders.4 In other words, some children may have a susceptibility towards OCD or Tics that may be triggered by the stress on their immune system from a strep infection.
Learn more about PANDAS at http://pandasnetwork.org/.
- McMahon W. Genetics of TD and RF: do they overlap? Program and abstracts of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 49th Annual Meeting; October 22-27, 2002; San Francisco, California. Symposium 26.
The PANDAS diagnosis is currently made through a combination of clinical history and laboratory blood tests. Some standard laboratory blood tests may be helpful if the child’s clinical history indicates sudden and drastic onset of tics and/or OCD symptoms after a strep-throat infection. If the tics and OCD behaviors start during an acute case of sore throat, the child should receive a rapid strep test and throat culture to rule out an acute strep infection. A strep infection should be treated appropriately. If the acute infection has resolved but the tics and OCD behaviors persist, then it can be helpful to run labs testing for immune markers to see if a recent streptococcus infection may be related to the timing of the onset of PANDAS symptoms. Consult with your physician about ordering these antibody lab tests if you think your child may suffer from PANDAS.
PANDAS is still a relatively newly described disorder that has not been universally accepted by the conventional medical community. Because of this, the current conventional medicine treatments for children with PANDAS are the same as those used for symptoms of OCD or tic disorders. These treatments include cognitive-behavioral therapy or medications including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants (SSRIs). Some physicians are also offering treatments like IVIG or plasma exchange that are aimed at affecting the child’s immune system. This is an area of ongoing research and the use of these medications is currently considered off-label and experimental.
Homeopathy is an incredibly safe and effective treatment used by the physicians at Arizona Natural Health Center for the treatment of PANDAS, without harmful side effects.
Homeopathic medicines are made from natural substances and are prepared so that they are entirely non-toxic. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, regulatesthe manufacture and sale of homeopathic medicines. Homeopathy improves health by gently promoting the body’s innate capacity to heal and restore balance.
There are several benefits to this type of treatment for children with PANDAS:
- Homeopathic remedies are easy to take and taste good, so most children like them, even very finicky eaters.
- Homeopathy tends to help the most with tics, OCD behaviors, sensory processing problems, tantrums, violent behaviors, hyperactivity, ADD/ADHD, mood fluctuations, and separation anxiety.
- Because homeopathy is a holistic therapy, when we treat children with PANDAS, we are also treating the whole body. If the child also suffers from other problems such as chronic recurrent ear infections, allergies,digestive problems, or other health concerns, these issues too may be helped by comprehensive homeopathic treatment.