Chronic illness

What Is NMO?


March is Neuromyelitis optica awareness month. This is the disease I have and I would love to share some brief info to educate you.  

What is NMO?

NMO stands for neuromyelitis optica, originally known as Devic’s Disease. NMO is currently an incurable but treatable autoimmune disorder. The body’s immune system attacks its own healthy cells, most commonly in the optic nerves and spinal cord. It can cause temporary or permanent blindness and/or paralysis, and may have periods of remission and relapse.

What causes NMO?

At present, the specific cause(s) of NMO are unknown. However, most experts believe that NMO results from a dysfunction in immune tolerance, which is the immune system’s ability to distinguish one’s own cells or proteins from potentially foreign materials.


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How Common is NMO?

There are an estimated 15,000 cases in the United States and a half million worldwide. As with many autoimmune conditions, females are affected by the disease more commonly than males, at an approximate ratio of up to 7:1. NMO can affect both children and adults.

What Are The Symptoms of NMO?

The symptoms of NMO can vary from person to person in disability, duration and severity. However, NMO is most commonly characterized by optic nerve and sins cord damage.

Generally, NMO symptoms begin rapidly which characterises the difference between nmo and ms. After the initial attack, NMO follows an unpredictable course, and time to remission can vary. Recurring episodes of optic neuritis and/or transverse myelitis can be weeks to months in duration, and in some very unusual cases can last years. However, much more often these symptoms are temporary and resolve  partially, usually after a course of treatment. Though nmo affects a person daily outside of attacks too with chronic pain and fatigue. 

What Treatment Options are Available?

While just a few years ago there were no treatments, the good news is that there are multiple. Treatments focus on symptom management, preventing future attacks and treatment during attacks. Medicines for spasms, pain relief and nausea are used to help relieve symptoms. Immunosuppressants at eusedto weaken the overactive immune system in  order to prevent inflammatory attacks. During an attack of nmo treatments work to decrease the severe inflammation by using steroids and plasmapheresis. It can be trial or error to find the treatments which work for each person!

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