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What is PANDAS syndrome?

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PANDAS syndrome is a rare condition that causes neuropsychiatric symptoms in children after they contract a strep infection, MedicineNet explains. The acronym "PANDAS" stands for "Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections." PANDAS develops from an autoimmune response to Streptococcal bacteria, which causes the immune system's antibodies to attack normal cells while trying to fight off the infection.

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Streptococcal bacteria effectively hides in the host body by surrounding its cellular walls with molecules resembling those found on a child's essential organs, such as the heart, skin and brain, the National Institute of Mental Health states. When the bacteria is eventually detected, the immune system has difficulty distinguishing the host cells from the invasive bacteria. Doctors typically diagnose the condition when a child suddenly develops obsessive compulsive disorder or another tic disorder after a strep infection. Other common symptoms include motor or vocal tics, anxiety attacks and moodiness.

Depending on the severity of the condition, children may recover from PANDAS syndrome, according to MedicineNet. Doctors primarily use cognitive behavioral therapy and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor medications to treat obsessive compulsive disorder. They may also prescribe antibiotics to fight an active strep infection or develop treatments to control the autoimmune response. In more severe cases, each new strep infection exacerbates the neuropsychiatric symptoms.

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