Neuromyelitis optica facts*
*Neuromyelitis optica facts medical author: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
- Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is an uncommon disease of the central nervous system (CNS) that affects the optic nerves and spinal cord due to myelin loss.
- Symptoms include rapid onset of eye pain and vision loss, myelitis (muscle weakness), numbness, and occasionally paralysis of the arms and legs with sensory disturbances and loss of bowel and bladder control; some patients may exhibit vomiting and hiccups.
- Neuromyelitis optica is diagnosed mainly from the patient's history and physical exam. Recently, detection of an antibody termed NMO - IgG can help distinguish between neuromyelitis optica and multiple sclerosis.
- Treatment of neuromyelitis optica usually occurs with methylprednisone and an immunosuppressive drug (azathioprine). Plasmapheresis (plasma exchange) has also been used but there is no cure for this disease.
- Unfortunately, neuromyelitis optica patients have an unpredictable and relapsing course of disease. Damage and disability is slowly cumulative due to recurrent attacks that damage new areas of myelin. Most individuals are impaired from myelitis and also have reading difficulties.
- The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is conducting research aimed at treating, preventing, and eventually curing this disease.
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