WHAT IS PANDAS?
Have you ever experienced a sudden change in the behavior of your child? I can remember vividly the day my once social, independent daughter suddenly clung to me at preschool drop off. Her face broke out in sores and her separation anxiety was so severe that I took her to our pediatrician. The diagnosis was a severe case of strep. After two rounds of antibiotics, her nervous tension left, but she continued to break out in sores. We chose a combination of functional and conventional medicine and therapy that eventually cleared her sores and chronic strep. It took two years before we finally saw results.
PANDAS is short for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections. This condition occurs when neurological symptoms follow an acute or chronic Streptococcus infection. PANDAS has been linked to infection with a group of A beta-hemolytic streptococcus (GABHS) called Streptococcus pyogenes known to contribute to neurological tics and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
CURRENT MEDICAL APPROACH:
When you or your child is faced with a unique medical condition that you cannot explain, visiting medical specialists is the norm. With PANDAS, current medical diagnosis may focus on the neurological presentations like OCD instead of the underlying cause of the symptoms.
WHAT ARE SOME PANDAS SYMPTOMS?
PANDAS symptoms range from urinary urgency, hyperactivity, separation anxiety, ritualistic behavior, poor handwriting and school performance to impulsivity, mood swings, oppositional defiant behavior, inattention, movement disorders and others.
The range of symptoms may turn into a diagnostic nightmare for a parent who is searching for a specific diagnosis. It can be incredibly frustrating for a parent when they must visit multiple specialists, only to receive a myriad of explanations that lead to more confusion than help.
HOW DOES PANDAS HAPPEN?
Understanding the physiology behind PANDAS can give you a better understanding of what you are dealing with. In PANDAS, the mechanism is believed to be autoimmune in nature – a process known as molecular mimicry.
Molecular mimicry occurs when antibodies intended for foreign proteins and invaders are mobilized by the immune system leading to healthy tissue damage in various parts of the body. PANDAS is believed to be caused in part by molecular mimicry – the neurological symptoms being a result of antibodies acting against an individual’s brain tissue.
The common link in these neurological disorders is immune overactivation. The immune system can go into overdrive with acute and chronic infections, but it can also be triggered by other mechanisms.
FOUNDATIONAL HEALTH AND PANDAS:
A common link in all of the symptoms and variants of PANDAS is immune overactivation affecting nerve tissue. The immune activation presents a functional, underlying cause - something that can be addressed. Sometimes neurological symptoms are the initial and only clue of such immune imbalances.
Foundational health issues such as stress, gut function, immune triggers and others can be addressed often resulting in the improvement of many overlapping symptoms. Looking at the case history of the patient can offer unique insight for medical therapy. Lab tests can assist the physician by showing various types of antibody levels and other important markers.
THERE IS HOPE!
Modern science has discovered new insights into how gut function, gut bacteria and yeast influence neurological health. When your doctor works on improving digestion and the balance of gut flora, immune and nervous system health usually benefit as well.
While the problem may be in the body’s nervous tissues, the functional cause may direct the doctor to the health of the gut, acute and chronic stress, blood sugar regulation and other root causes that can be discovered. Make sure your doctor has experience with PANDAS if your child exhibits symptoms of this condition.