Testing for Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO)
For many years, neuromyelitis optica has been considered under the umbrella term of multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis is the most common neurological disorder affecting young people. Most NMO patients that I see are initially misdiagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It is important to recognize that neuromyelitis optica is typically more debilitating than MS. Most disability in MS relates to the progressive phase of the disease, rather than relating to the attacks that occur in the early phase or the relapsing remitting phase.
In contrast, however, disability in neuromyelitis optica occurs during the specific attack, in other words, the disability is attack related. It is well know that the current immunomodulated drugs that are used for multiple sclerosis can reduce the likelihood of an attack of MS and reduce the number of lesions that accrue on MRI. However, unfortunately, the immunomodulated medications used in MS are only partially effective and this is because disability in MS is not specifically related to the attacks, but more related to the progressive phase of the illness. In NMO, patients develop disability because of the specific attacks. Therefore, prevention of attacks in NMO, we hope would prevent disability.
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