Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is a central nervous system disorder that causes inflammation in nerves of the eye and the spinal cord.

NMO is also called neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD) and Devic disease. It occurs when the body's immune system reacts against its own cells. This happens mainly in the optic nerves that connect the retina of the eye with the brain and in the spinal cord. But it sometimes occurs in the brain.

The disorder may appear after an infection. Or it can be associated with another autoimmune condition. Irregular antibodies bind to proteins in the central nervous system and cause damage.

Neuromyelitis optica is often misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis (MS) or seen as a type of MS. But NMO is a different condition.

Neuromyelitis optica can cause blindness in one or both eyes, weakness or paralysis in the legs or arms, and painful spasms. It also can cause loss of sensation, uncontrollable vomiting and hiccups, and bladder or bowel problems from spinal cord damage. Children can have confusion, seizures or comas.

Relapses are common. Preventing recurrent attacks is a key to averting disability. Neuromyelitis optica flare-ups might be reversible, but they can be severe enough to cause permanent visual loss and problems with walking.

Neuromyelitis optica care at Mayo Clinic

Nov. 23, 2022
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