1. Health
Send to a Friend via Email
Kristin Hayes, R.N.

Is Mental Illness a New Complication of Strep Throat?

By October 30, 2012

Follow me on:

Undiagnosed cases of strep throat can lead to dangerous conditions such as rheumatic fever, permanent damage to the heart or damaged kidneys, and now some health officials are trying to add a mental illness, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) to the list of potential complications.

Rheumatic fever, a condition that can cause damage to the heart, and kidney problems are known complications of untreated strep throat. These complications are believed to occur when the immune system goes haywire and attacks these organs. This is why all confirmed cases of strep throat should be treated with a course of appropriate antibiotics. Now, some evidence suggests that the heart and kidneys aren't the only organs that can be damaged as a result of untreated strep but that the brain might be at risk too.

Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections or PANDAS is the term some health officials are using to describe a group of patients who suddenly developed obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) as a result, (they believe), of an untreated strep infection. Recent studies have not shown an association between the abrupt onset of OCD and strep infections, but some professionals question the methods used in the studies, and since this condition is relatively new (first described in 1998) its existence remains controversial. What professionals do agree on, however, is that strep throat is not a condition to be taken lightly. If you suspect that your child has a strep infection, have them tested. If they test positive for strep throat make sure you follow through with a full course of antibiotics.  For more information read:

What are Complications of Strep Throat?

Strep Throat Symptoms

Is Your Sore Throat Strep?

Stay Up To Date: Subscribe to my free newsletter

and follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

October 30, 2012 at 7:29 pm
(1) Janet Singer says:

As an advocate for OCD awareness, I have heard many accounts of PANDAS, and many top mental health professionals who specialize in OCD agree it exists. If your child goes to sleep one night and wakes up a totally different person with extreme symptoms of OCD, this illness should be suspected.

October 30, 2012 at 9:28 pm
(2) minimaxwell says:

Perhaps you should watch this. My daughter was just treated successfully I might add by a team of wonderful doctors at Mass General Hospital in Boston.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDuxlDWMgso

Mass Geneal “believes”.

November 1, 2012 at 5:52 pm
(3) Margaret Gordon says:

The National Institute of Mental Health has done numerous studies on PANDAS and has two further trials underway currently; Their studies in fact have shown a connection between strep and other infections with a range of rapid onset behaviors including OCD and tics. For further information please see this piece from the NIMH from March 2012: http://intramural.nimh.nih.gov/pdn/web.htm.

With regard to controversy, one of the doctors on the study referenced in the above article showing no connection realized that the study was not evaluating the right group of patients. The study in fact was not looking at children with abrupt onset OCD/tics but rather at those with “garden variety” OCD and tics. He asked for his name to be removed. You may read about his in this recent Boston Globe article:

We look forward to an updated version of this article incorporating this information.

November 2, 2012 at 9:36 pm
(4) Rechelleh says:

Thank you for the open discussion on PANDAS. Please look into the current information & research from the NIH, OCD Foundation, Dr. Cunningham’s research and the recent PANDAS conference held at UC Irvine in Sept. just to name a few that could provide your readers with the adequate updated information regarding PANDAS.

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>
  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Ear, Nose, & Throat Disorders

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.