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Autoimmune Disorders: Is Your Child At Risk of PANS or PANDAS?

The following content is sponsored by The Pace Foundation.


Autoimmune Disorders: Is Your Child At Risk of PANS or PANDAS?

Every year, millions of young children and adolescents get sick with the flu, or some sort of viral or bacterial infection.

For a small number of children, these infections trigger an autoimmune response that causes acute behavior changes. This response is called Children’s Postinfectious Autoimmune Encephalopathy (CPAE), and its symptoms appear similar to OCD or severe anxiety.

How can you tell if your child is suffering from a CPAE? This graphic, presented by the PACE Foundation, outlines the two types of CPAEs—PANS and PANDAS—and explains what symptoms to look for, and where to seek help if needed.

What is CPAE?

CPAE is a type of autoimmune disorder that causes your immune system to accidentally attack healthy cells. In the case of CPAE, this reaction is triggered by an infection.

The area of the body that’s affected by CPAE is the brain. Specifically, it attacks the basal ganglia, which is the same region of the brain that’s been linked to OCD and Tourette’s syndrome.

To date, there are two types of CPAEs:

  • PANS (Pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome): A sudden onset of OCD-like symptoms, thought to be triggered by infections or inflammatory reactions.
  • PANDAS (Pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with streptococcus): A subset of PANs, characterized by an acute onset of OCD or tics. It’s caused by a streptococcal infection like strep throat.

Some key symptoms to look out for include:

  • Regressive bedwetting
  • Emotionally erratic behavior
  • Depression or severely oppositional behavior
  • Separation anxiety
  • Trouble eating
  • Tics

It’s important to note that, when a child has PANS or PANDAS, their symptoms develop rapidly, or seem to come out of nowhere.

How to Treat PANS or PANDAS

If you think your child may have PANDAS or PANS, contact your child’s doctor right away.

While PANS or PANDAS could come back if your child gets a viral or bacterial infection again, there are a number of treatments that can help children manage their condition, so they can live healthy, nearly-symptom-free lives.

Antibiotics may be enough for some patients, while others might need a mixture of antibiotics, steroids, and/or psychiatric treatments.

There are several CPAE/PANS clinics throughout the U.S., founded by the PACE Foundation, which has helped facilitate a national standard of care for CPAE treatment throughout America.

Pace Treatment Centers Across the U.S.

The Pace Foundation has established partnerships with major universities and institutions, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the University of Arizona Center of Excellence, to treat children with CPAE.

Treatment CenterStateClinic Type
Stanford UniversityCaliforniaPartner clinic
University of California CaliforniaSponsored clinic
University of Arizona Center of ExcellenceArizonaSponsored clinic
Banner Children's at Desert (Affiliated with University of Arizona)ArizonaSponsored clinic
University of Arkansas Center of ExcellenceArkansas Sponsored clinic
Harvard UniversityMassachusettsPartner clinic
Dartmouth UniversityNew HampshireSponsored clinic
University of WisconsinWisconsinSponsored clinic
Greater Regional Health CenterIowaPartner clinic

While there’s still more to learn about these autoimmune disorders, there is hope for children diagnosed with PANS or PANDAS. For additional resources on diagnosis and treatment of CPAEs, visit the Pace Foundation’s website.

PACE Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to helping kids with CPAE and supporting their families through education, advocacy, and research.

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