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What you should know about NMOSD

Doctor sharing image with patient on a tablet device.
Blog

/ by Jay Avasarala, MD, PhD

Written by Dr. Jay Avasarala, director of Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology at the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute

What is neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD)?

NMOSD is a disease of the central nervous system that mainly attacks the eyes and spinal cord. The optic nerves are affected, and patients typically present with signs and symptoms of optic neuritis, which include pain in one eye and visual blurring or loss. Up to 20 percent of cases of NMOSD presenting as optic neuritis affect both eyes.

These symptoms can also present in multiple sclerosis, which is the more common disease. NMOSD is often misdiagnosed as MS, but it is a different condition.

NMOSD affects African-Americans and Asians in disproportionately higher numbers, and it can also be associated with other diseases such as lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, myasthenia gravis and celiac disease.

How eye problems manifest in NMOSD

Profound and persistent visual loss is a feature of optic neuritis due to NMOSD. A much higher percentage of patients with NMOSD experience blindness compared to patients with MS, and vision worsens more quickly in pediatric patients compared to adult patients. 

Recognizing NMOSD early can alleviate devastating consequences, and we aim not to miss any opportunity to spot the disease.

How patients can benefit from our doctors

Our team of neuroimmunology doctors are also fellowship-trained in MS. We are interested in tracking down the root causes of diseases, powered by research to bring the latest in patient care. We have current, ongoing research including the use of an App to track optic nerve disease, with the goal of a more rapid diagnosis of NMOSD.

Another of our research goals is the study of MS and NMOSD in the African-American population. We have a unique database that houses patient information on both MS and NMOSD. There is no other database of this kind, anywhere, and this allows us to be on the forefront of research for the disease. 

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