Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is an autoimmune disease that primarily affects the central nervous system. The autoimmune disease means the body attacks its own cells and gives rise to symptoms. Symptoms of NMO are usually severe than multiple sclerosis (MS). The individual episodes in NMO are more serious compared to MS. Their cumulative effect will have debilitating, irreversible effects on nerve functions. Unlike multiple sclerosis, NMO isn’t a progressive disease, and disabilities accumulate from repeated acute attacks.
NMO can be aggressive, and it carries a high risk of relapse (recurrence) if not treated early.
What is NMO?
Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) or devic disease is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system. NMO primarily affects the myelin sheath that insulates the central nervous system (CNS). Therefore, the disease targets the spinal cord, optic nerves, and brainstem. The damage to the optic nerves produces swelling and inflammation that cause pain and loss of vision. However, damage to the spinal cord causes weakness or paralysis in the legs or arms, loss of sensation, and problems with bladder and bowel function. Moreover, damage to the brainstem can lead to prolonged hiccups, nausea, vomiting, vertigo, or respiratory failure.
NMO is a relapsing-remitting disease, and during a relapse, the new damage to optic nerves and/or spinal cord can cause additional disability.
There are two types of NMO:
- Relapsing form: It is the most common type of NMO and mainly affects women over men. It has periodic flare-ups with some respite in between.
- Monophasic form: It involves a single attack that lasts for 1-2 months. Both men and women are equally affected by this form.
What are the treatment options for NMO and MS?
Both MS and NMO are incurable. However, medications can help improve the symptoms.
The treatment options for NMO and MS include:
- Intravenous plasma exchange
Also, NMO requires immunosuppressant drugs to prevent further episodes. MS medications should aim to reduce flare-ups and treat the underlying causes.
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National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Treatments of NMO. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS/Related-Conditions/Neuromyelitis-Optica-(NMO)/Treatments
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