What is PANDAS?
First, we need to know about PANS. All these acronyms… PANS is Pediatric Acute Neuropsychiatric Syndrome. This is a form of autoimmune encephalopathy. It is the encompassing term over a form of PANS called PANDAS. You will hear more about PANDAS than PANS because PANDAS is the most common form of PANS. PANDAS is Pediatric Acute Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus.
PANDAS, like most things in life as Schopenhauer said, it was first ridiculed (still is), violently opposed (still is) and then held self-evident. Thank goodness we are moving past some of the nonsense politics and at least more and more providers know about it, even if they don’t acknowledge it and treat it… They are not laughing their patient’s parents out of the treatment room calling them every condescending name in the book. Major hospital networks and IVY League schools are now researching and treating it, to avoid laying down criticism of medicine I will simply say, Thank God, it’s about time.
Why, about time? Because this form of autoimmunity (neuro-autoimmunity) is just terrible. We first have to explain autoimmunity in general. Autoimmunity is where your immune system attacks your own body, or brain in this case. Autoimmunity is so unholy complex, but it gets broken down into 3 basic steps. The immune system faces a trigger, this can be an antigen like bacteria, virus, fungi, or everyday items like food or environmental compounds. Your immune system fights off the substance, time and time again.
In the case of PANDAS its strep. Chronic and recurring infections over and over again. This can start young as an infant, toddler or little boy or girl. At first the individual will have all of the usual symptoms of fighting infections. What’s amazing is they really may not! The immune system gets good at fighting the strep and you or your child may not have outward cold/flu like symptoms like you’d expect. Also, at this point, what happens is the immune system starts to make auto (self, as in your body) autoantibodies towards the brain.
Now this is a bit of a bombshell here but follow me. Your body starts to make autoantibodies, why? Because it is tired of fighting the strep all the time, so it is going to fight anything that looks like strep. Your body makes antibodies to fight off infections by reading the amino acid sequence (AAS) of the substance, let’s say strep has an AAS of ABCD. Let’s say that parts of your brain such as your brainstem, basal ganglia and others have an AAS of ABCP. That’s close enough for government work so let’s make an antibody to go after that because it looks a lot like strep. This is called molecular mimicry, and the concept of going after anything that looks like strep is called loss of tolerance of self – for all the dorks out there.
So now that there are auto-antibodies going after brain tissues this is where we get the psychiatric symptoms: Anxiety, depression, ADHD, OCD, Tourette’s, self-harm, anger and rage, and more! These little antibodies are literally causing brain damage and physiologically triggering the pathways in the brain the cause all of these symptoms. This can happen overnight. One day your child is fine, the next they have a profound debilitating OCD and/or personality change.
As a very near and dear patient had said to me “I am not driving the bus.” These people are out of control, they are on a speeding bus with an out of control driver headed for the cliff. Worst of all these people (mostly children) are in pediatric psychiatric wards and they may never get out because this is an immune system problem, NOT a psychiatric problem.
At HML we use Functional Medicine and Functional Neurology to address the underlying immune and metabolic issues, as well as underlying brain weaknesses to help get the person back to functioning every day!
To learn more, please, please do not go into “the ghetto’s” of the internet, you will find very scary and unfortunate, heart breaking situations. Look into websites of hospitals or universities that are studying or treating this. Also see the following including our episode on The Dr. Alex Show Podcast:
https://www.fredcasts.com/dralex Titles “Fighting for Their Children…”