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How Common Is Neuromyelitis Optica or Is It A Rare Disease?

Neuromyelitis optica is a disorder of the central nervous system with autoimmunity as the primary cause. As the name suggests it is an inflammation of the spinal cord and second cranial nerve that is optic nerve. These are described as optic neuritis and myelitis in medical terminology. It is a demyelinating disorder in which the myelin sheath of the optic nerve and the white column of the spinal cord gets irritated and may suffer from loss of the myelin sheath. It may also involve the brain and leave residue effects and variable loss of the functions of affected tissues.

The immune system of the body sometimes falters and is unable to differentiate between self and nonself tissues. It then attacks some of its own tissues and forms antibodies against them like in case of neuromyelitis optica the self-tissue in opposition of the body’s immune system is optic nerve and spinal cord. This autoimmunity is a dangerous phenomenon because the antibodies produced against self-tissues will persist for a lifetime and will prevent it from recovering.

How Common Is Neuromyelitis Optica or Is It A Rare Disease?

How Common Is Neuromyelitis Optica?

For the commonness or rarity of the neuromyelitis optica, various research papers have by. According to the collection and analysis of various studies, surveys and epidemiological projects, it has been found that the incidence rate of neuromyelitis optica is about 0.5 to 5 cases per hundred thousand populations. It is found more commonly in European countries with the highest incidence rate in Southern Denmark and lowest in North American countries like Cuba. The incidence of the disease in India is found to be around 2.6 per one lakh population as supported by a study in southern India.[1]

Female to male ratio for the disease is reported between 3:1 to 9:1 in different parts of the world by showing female preponderance over male.[2] It is also understood by the fact that autoimmune disorders are more commonly found in females than in males. Data of the disorder was also analyzed and found that the age of onset of neuromyelitis optica varied between 30 to 40 years that is in 4th decade and the most common age of presentation is found in late adulthood. The ethnic groups of various countries were also compared for any variation to be seen in a particular race many variations but it didn’t yield many variations among them.

Is Neuromyelitis Optica A Rare Disease?

According to the hospital data of various countries, it is seen as a pretty rare disease to be found. Although, the epidemiological data collection is increasing day by daya but still data on neuromyelitis optica is sparse and lacking in various parts of the world. It not only restricts the true figures of the disease but also give a false impression of higher prevalence in one part over another.

Overall by the expert opinion and the data-based studies, it is found in maximum results that neuromyelitis optica is a very rare disease to be encountered when so many autoimmune diseases have surfaced in 21st century with the flood of non-communicable diseases. The disease has a good prognosis with early treatment but complete cure is usually not seen in most cases.


Neuromyelitis optica is an autoimmune disorder associated with demyelination of optic nerve causing optic neuritis and involvement of spinal cord causing myelitis. It is not a common disorder to be seen in the outpatient department and even more difficult to diagnose because of its resemblance with the patients of multiple sclerosis.

As the demyelinating process is a slow process and takes a long time to completely destroy the tissues, it becomes very important to detect the disorder in its early stages before any permanent damage to the affected parts has been inflicted. Patients should immediately report about the features of visual acuity loss and loss of sensations on other body parts to facilitate the diagnosis at the earliest. It will help to minimize the damage to the patient.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 1, 2019

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