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VERONA (KDKA) — It’s a rarely understood but prevalent childhood condition believed to affect one in 200 children in the United States.

Parents say it is like their child changed overnight, but now a local doctor is on a personal mission to be on the cutting edge of treatment and diagnosis.

Dr. Elizabeth Spaar put herself through medical school and now has her own practice, Family Spectrum, in Verona.

Dr. Spaar is the only doctor in the area specializing in what’s called PANDAS, a childhood onset condition.

PANDAS, or Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders associated with Streptococcus, is an infection after strep throat that can suddenly and adversely affect a child’s mood or behavior, cause tics and more.

“It’s not normal if you’re going through a phase for your handwriting to deteriorate, it’s not normal if you’re going through just a phase to be getting bad headaches,” Dr. Spaar says.

Dr. Spaar says it’s the combination of childhood psychiatric issues along with neurological issues that can lead to a PANDAS or PANS diagnosis, which can cause brain inflammation.

It’s now believed infections other than strep, like sinus infections, Lyme, allergies and even exposure to toxins, can cause the childhood condition.

There’s a very personal reason why Dr. Spaar began the journey to becoming a doctor specializing in the disease.

Two of her four children have the condition.

max spaar pandas patient Pittsburgh Doctor Making Big Strides In Treating Debilitating, Misunderstood Childhood Condition

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Max and his older brother had the toughest time. They were seen by 15 doctors before they were diagnosed with PANS/PANDAS.

“I get really sad that my two older boys lost 10 years to this, they lost their childhood to this,” she says.

Dr. Spaar says they once had to have a designated room for Max due to his episodes of rage. But now Dr. Spaar is treating patients just like her son with an integrative treatment of Ibuprofen, antibiotics, vitamins, and sometimes, in cases like Max’s, medicinal marijuana.

Eric Spaar, Dr. Spaar’s husband, says the treatment combined with a tincture of medicinal marijuana under his tongue or by pill gives Max more clarity of thought.

“It calms him down and makes him have less tics,” said Eric.

Max isn’t the only child seeing a difference.

Dr. Spaar is getting calls from all over Pittsburgh, the United States, and even the world to help kids with PANS/PANDAS.

“Because I figured this out, I’m able to help families get their children back. You get a lot of families hugging and crying because they got their kid back,” she said.

For more information on Dr. Spaar’s practice, visit: https://www.spectrumfamilypractice.com/

And for additional details, visit: http://www.pandasnetwork.org/