Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder

Overview of Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder

Neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD) is a neurological disorder that affects the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. It is an autoimmune disorder of the central nervous system (CNS), caused by the body’s immune system mistakenly attacking healthy tissues. This leads to inflammation of the optic nerves and spinal cord, causing vision loss, muscle weakness, and loss of other bodily functions. People with NMOSD are three times more likely to be women than men. It usually occurs in people over 18, though it may occur in younger people. It is estimated to affect up to 17 in every 100,000 people in the United States.

Symptoms of Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder

Symptoms of NMOSD can vary, depending on where in the CNS the autoimmune attack takes place. Common symptoms include:
  • Loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of sensation in the limbs or other parts of the body
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control
  • Paralysis or spasticity
  • Pain
Less common symptoms include:
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Swelling of the brain
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Seizures
  • Depression or mood disturbances
Some people with NMOSD also have other neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, transverse myelitis, and brainstem encephalitis.

Causes of Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder

The exact cause of NMOSD is not fully understood, but it is believed to be an autoimmune disorder caused by the body’s immune system attacking healthy tissue. It may be triggered by an infection or a genetic factor.

Diagnosis & Treatment of Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder

NMOSD can be difficult to diagnose, as its symptoms can vary widely. Diagnosis is based on a combination of medical history, physical examination, laboratory tests, imaging tests (such as MRI), cerebrospinal fluid analysis, and other tests. Treatment for NMOSD focuses on controlling the symptoms and preventing relapses. This can include medications such as immunosuppressants (to stop the immune system from attacking healthy tissue), corticosteroids (to reduce inflammation and pain), and plasmapheresis (a procedure that removes inflammation-causing proteins from the blood). The duration and type of treatment depend on the individual’s condition.

Prevention of Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder

Currently, there is no known way to prevent NMOSD. However, taking steps to boost the immune system, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising, and getting enough sleep, may help to reduce the risk of relapse.

Living with Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder

Living with NMOSD can be challenging due to the physical effects of the condition. It is important to learn as much as possible about the condition and find ways to manage the symptoms. Regular physical and occupational therapy and lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding excessive stress, can help to reduce flares. It is also important to maintain contact with friends and family and seek support from a mental health professional, if needed. A strong support system, coupled with an understanding of the condition, can help you better manage NMOSD.