PANDAS Often Misdiagnosed In Kids, Can Lead To Sudden Behavioral Changes

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Saul and Bonnie Markowitz remember the day their world changed forever. It was Feb. 2, 2007.

Their son, Brandon, was 5 when he suddenly changed. He suffered tantrums that couldn’t be controlled and debilitating OCD. Brandon wasn’t Brandon.

“One day he is doing his thing, really happy, and wanting to go out and do his thing, and suddenly the next day he wakes up and we aren’t sure what’s going on,” Saul said.

All because of a strep infection, Brandon had developed PANDAS — which stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections.

“And what that basically means is a child gets an infection and the antibodies to that infection end up attacking the brain instead of the germs,” says Dr. Elizabeth Spaar, a PANDAS expert based in Grove City.

PANDAS can lead to tics, severe OCD, tantrums, the refusal to eat and anxiety. Parents describe the symptoms as “sudden and out of the blue.”

Experts say children with PANDAS are often misdiagnosed.

According to the PANDAS Network, an estimated 1 in 200 children suffers from this disorder.

Experts say the best treatment for acute episodes of PANDAS is to treat the strep infection causing the symptoms with antibiotics.

Bonnie and Saul Markowitz say Brandon — now 16 — has relapsed several times through the years, but is now doing much better thanks to an even more advanced treatment called IVIG, where healthy donor plasma is given to boost the immune system.

They are telling their story so other families get the help they may need.

“It seems the longer a child has PANDAS the harder it is to tackle it,” Bonnie said.

“That’s one of the reasons we are doing this, we are building awareness. People, they may see a little something with their child, how tough would it be to go to your doctor and say, ‘Why don’t you just swab him for strep throat?’ and see what’s going on” Saul said.

Most cases of PANDAS happen between 4 and 12 years of age.

You can find more information at www.pandasnetwork.org.

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