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diagnosis

PANDAS

Diagnosis

PANDAS, or pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with Streptococcus (there’s a mouthful, right?), is a psychiatric and neurological condition that typically affects children. (It’s now considered a subtype of PANS, or pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome, which is a broader collection of symptoms that come on suddenly but aren’t caused by strep.) Streptococcus bacteria are sneaky, and when they attach to cell walls in the body, they closely resemble the actual molecules of the hearts, joints, skin, and brain. When the immune system finally realizes the invaders are present, it ends up attacking the body’s normal tissues along with the bacteria. In the case of PANDAS, these “anti-brain” antibodies cause a range of sudden behavioral changes, including obsessive compulsive disorder or tic symptoms. While PANDAS typically shows up in kids, it might also be an immune-mediated condition, meaning adults could experience it too. Diagnosing and treating PANDAS is more art than science—a concept you’re well familiar with if you’ve been in the chronic illness community for a while! Healthcare professionals and parents try a range of options, from antibiotics and meds like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to cognitive behavioral therapy for the psychiatric symptoms. Some find supplementation with vitamins and minerals and omega-3s helpful. Research suggests people with PANDAS may be deficient in vitamin D. There isn’t a lot of information about PANDAS in adults, so if you think you may have it, it's important to be your own advocate, trust your gut feelings about your symptoms, and find a practitioner who is willing to help you explore the diagnosis. As always, if you’re working with a practitioner and you feel like they’re not hearing your concerns, try someone different. If you’re having trouble finding someone who’s a good fit, shout out to your WanaFam and see what they think! They may not have experience with PANDAS specifically, but they can give you recommendations about practitioners they trust, and that’s a great starting point.

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