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Doctors Warn Strep Infection Can Lead To Form Of OCD

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Doctors around the country are trying to raise awareness of a condition that may be more common than previously thought.

Most people associate strep throat as a common childhood infection, but doctors warn that a bout of strep can lead to side effects that mimic obsessive compulsive disorder or other psychiatric disturbances.

Involuntary ticks, intrusive thoughts, obsessive behaviors, severe anxiety, developmental regression, concentration difficulties and sometimes fits of rage are the side effects of PANDAS, a disorder brought on by strep.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PANDAS: Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections, was discovered in the early 1990's by Drs. Susan Swedo, Henrietta Leonard, and Judith Rapoport. They were doing studies of childhood-onset OCD and observed that some of the children had an unusually abrupt onset of symptoms. Unlike typical cases of OCD, where symptoms begin gradually and may be hidden by the child for several weeks or months (because of their embarrassment over the irrational nature of the worries and behaviors), the children in the PANDAS subgroup reported a very sudden, dramatic symptom onset. 

Experts say PANDAS attacks the immune system, which can cause inflammation in the brain, and often leads to a misdiagnosis because it mimics many psychological disorders.

Doctors say children can suffer for years before getting the proper treatment, which is aggressive antibiotic therapy, a protein blood infusion, or surgery.

It is estimated to affect at least 1 in every 200 children.

Physicians familiar with the condition warn that it is rarely diagnosed because very few doctors are familiar with the symptoms. They recommend that parents who notice sudden unexplained behavior request a strep test. 

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