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Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder (NMOSD)

Let’s Talk About Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder (NMOSD)

Often mistaken for multiple sclerosis, NMOSD can cause serious vision and mobility problems. Help is here.

    Our Pro PanelNeuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder

    We went to some of the nation’s top experts in NMOSD to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    Benjamin M. Greenberg, M.D. headshot.

    Benjamin M. Greenberg, M.D.Director and Professor of Neurology

    Transverse Myelitis and Neuromyelitis Optica Program; University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
    Dallas
    Michael Levy, M.D. headshot.

    Michael Levy, M.D.Director and Associate Professor of Neurology

    NMO Clinic and Research Laboratory and Massachusetts General Hospital
    Boston
    Maureen Mealy, Ph.D., R.N. headshot.

    Maureen Mealy, Ph.D., R.N.Adjunct Associate Professor of Neurology

    Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
    Baltimore

    Frequently Asked QuestionsNeuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder (NMOSD)

    Is NMOSD often mistaken for MS?

    It can be, because the symptoms—blurry vision, impaired mobility—can be similar and even MRI scans can be misleading. Also, the two conditions affect mostly women. But there are differences. NMOSD attacks take place during a shorter period of time, are worse, and leave people more disabled. People tend to be older—on average, in their late 30s and 40s, instead of in their 20s. And 80% of people with NMOSD have specific antibodies not found in MS.

    What is an NMOSD relapse?

    It’s another inflammatory attack of the central nervous system (CNS) that can leave you more disabled, especially if it occurs in the same place (like your spinal cord). About half of all NMOSD patients have relapses in the first year, so preventing these attacks is key. That’s why all NMOSD patients are put on immunosuppressant medications.

    How will I know if I have a relapse?

    The signs of another attack aren’t subtle, and the symptoms usually get worse over the course of a few days. If your first attack left you with recurring blurry vision, the second one might make you go blind in one eye or it may affect another part of your nervous system, like your legs or arms. But these relapses vary from person to person, and there’s some data that suggests preventative meds are associated with milder relapses.

    Will I need to be treated by a neurologist?

    Primary care doctors can treat NMOSD, but it also helps to have a neurologist who specializes in neuroimmune disorders—like multiple sclerosis (MS) or transverse myelitis (TM)—on your team, too. Even if you only see the neurologist once or twice a year, this specialist can work with your primary care provider to deal with changes in your health and keep your doctor informed about the latest research in the disease.

    Linda Rodgers

    Linda Rodgers

    @lindarodgers86

    Linda Rodgers is a former magazine and digital editor turned writer, focusing on health and wellness.