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This page is dedicated to Heather Sowalla and her journey through NMO.

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What is Neuromyelitis Optica?

Neuromyelitis optica (NMO), once referred to as Devic’s disease, is a central nervous system disorder causing primarily swelling and inflammation of the eye nerves (optic neuritis) and the spinal cord (myelitis). Neuromyelitis optica occurs when your body’s immune system reacts against its own cells in the central nervous system, mainly in the optic nerves and spinal cord, but sometimes in the brain. The cause often is unknown, although it may sometimes appear after an infection, or it may be associated with another autoimmune condition. Neuromyelitis optica may cause blindness in one or both eyes, weakness or paralysis in the legs or arms, painful spasms, loss of sensation, and bladder or bowel dysfunction from spinal cord damage. NMO attacks may be reversible, but can be severe enough to cause permanent visual loss and problems with walking. A small number of people with NMO experience vomiting before the onset of eye and spinal cord problems. Children may develop confusion, seizures or coma as a manifestation of NMO.

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