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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Neuromyelitis Optica


Other Names for this Disease
  • Devic syndrome
  • NMO
  • Devic's neuromyelitis optica
  • Devic disease
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Cause

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What causes neuromyelitis optica?

In most cases, the exact cause of neuromyelitis optica is unknown. However, studies of affected nerves have improved our understanding of the disease process. In neuromyelitis optica, certain immune proteins (autoantibodies) attach themselves to specialized proteins in the spinal cord and optical nerve called "water channel proteins." The autoantibodies signal immune cells to attack, resulting in damage to myelin and the breakdown of healthy nerves and tissues.[1]

There is a strong link between neuromyelitis optica and a personal or family history of other autoimmune conditions. In fact, 50% of people with neuromyelitis optica are also affected by other autoimmune conditions and/or have family members with an autoimmune condition.[2]

There have been a few cases of neuromyelitis optica occurring in association with certain infectious conditions (e.g., syphilis, HIV, chlamydia, varicella, cytomegalovirus, and Epstein Barr virus). The nature of this link isn't clear. It is possible that certain infections may trigger neuromyelitis optica in people who are predisposed to the condition.[1]
Last updated: 12/5/2014

References
  1. Hazin H, Khan F, Bhatti MT. Neuromyeliits optica: Current concepts and prospects for future management. Current opinion in opthalmology. 2009;
  2. Neuromyelitis Optica. NORD. March 2012; http://rarediseases.org/rare-disease-information/rare-diseases/byID/479/viewFullReport.


Other Names for this Disease
  • Devic syndrome
  • NMO
  • Devic's neuromyelitis optica
  • Devic disease
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.