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    Childhood Post-Infectious Neuroimmune Disorders

    In this group of disorders, psychiatric illness arises from an organic etiology; symptoms are indicative of an infectious trigger and a misdirected immune system. A child beset by emotional or behavioral symptoms is exhibiting an aberrant response to infection. Often, the underlying cause is missed and, without medical intervention, the child’s functioning deteriorates in school, home, and/or community settings.

     

    Children are frequently misdiagnosed, because of a lack of understanding and awareness, with a litany of psychiatric disorders including: Attention Deficit Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Tourette Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, eating disorders, and Bipolar Disorder.

    PANDAS and PANS

    Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) was first described at length in 1998 to describe sudden onset of OCD and other physical and behavioral changes in children following streptococcal infection. This disease appears to share many characteristics with Sydenham's Chorea and Autoimmune Encephalitis. Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS) shares many similar symptoms but is triggered by an infection or environmental factor other than streptococcus. Neither condition is well understood, and it is imperative for research to move faster to develop much needed therapies for children.

    Impact on Families

    Families with children experiencing neuroimmune illness have their lives turned upside down. Their previously healthy, happy children change dramatically overnight, or over the course of months. The burden on families is enormous. Based on a survey of 300 MGH families of PANDAS patients, 70% of respondents traveled over 50 miles to obtain medical care for their children. 30% had visited the emergency department at least once due to the severity of their child’s symptoms (with an average of four ER visits), and 20% of respondents reported needing to hospitalize their children. In addition, families spent an average of twenty thousand dollars out-of-pocket for treatments not covered by insurance.

  • Symptoms Include:

    A significant change in emotional and/or behavioral functioning impacting daily life

    Obsessive, compulsive, and repetitive behaviors or thoughts

    Significant anxiety, including separation anxiety

    Fears, phobias, and panic attacks

    Depression and/or suicidal thoughts

    Explosive rage and aggression

    Screaming, irritability, and frequent mood changes

    Tics and unusual movements

    Learning difficulty or academic regression

    Marked decline in handwriting

    Inability to retain information

    Inattention and hyperactivity

    Sensory issues

    Restricted eating to the point of starvation and weight loss

    Frequent urination and bedwetting

    Night terrors, insomnia, and other sleep disturbances