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Is Neuromyelitis Optica Hereditary & Can It Cause Headaches?

Neuromyelitis optica is not linked to heredity. The condition is not transferred in the next progeny. According to an estimate, in only 3% of cases, the immediate relative of the patient suffers from this condition. A recent study has been successful in finding the link between the gene and neuromyelitis optica. Neuromyelitis optica may lead to a headache.

Is Neuromyelitis Optica Hereditary & Can It Cause Headaches?

Is Neuromyelitis Optica A Hereditary Disease?

Neuromyelitis optica is usually not an inherited disease. The disease is not transferred through generations. It has been found that in almost all the cases only a single member of the family is affected. In almost 3% of cases, a family member of the patient is known to suffer from this condition1. This condition rarely transfers to the next generation and if it does, the pattern of inheritance is not known.

Recently a study has been conducted which found the genetic association of neuromyelitis optica. The risk of this condition, according to the study, is increased through the complement component gene variation. This gene is responsible for the synthesis of protein which harms the pathogens and also damaging the components to which they are attached. In a patient with neuromyelitis optica, these antibodies damage the optic nerve and spinal cord.

This study would also help identify why some people effectively respond to treatment while others do not respond to treatment.2

Does Neuromyelitis Optica Cause Headache?

Headache is defined as the pain in the brain that may vary in severity from dull to sharp. Headache may be the symptom of abnormality in the brain. Cause of headache may be simple or serious. Neuromyelitis optica is the condition that affects the spinal cord and optic nerve and may cases brain is also affected by this condition. Headache may be also caused due to neuromyelitis optica. The condition may be caused due to the development of lesions in the brain. The lesions are seen with MRI imaging. Not only are the headache-causing lesions evident in MRI imaging, various inflammatory biomarkers such as interleukin-6 and pentraxin-3.

Following are the types of headache that may be clinically presented by the patients suffering from neuromyelitis3:

Cervicogenic Headache: Cervicogenic headache is a secondary headache which causes by illness and physical issues. Cervicogenic headache is caused by a disorder of cervical spine disorder and its components such as bone, disc, and soft tissue element.

Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalalgia-Like Headache: This is the headache with varying severity from moderate to severe pain. Apart from the headache, the patient in such headache experiences lacrimation, nasal congestion, and edema.

Treatment Of Neuromyelitis Optica

There is no cure for neuromyelitis optica. The aim of treatment is directed to manage the symptom of neuromyelitis optica:

Steroid Therapy: Doctors will administer corticosteroid medications such as methylprednisolone through a vein in the arms (intravenously). This medication will administer for about five days. Steroidal therapy reduces the inflammation caused due to immune attack.

Plasma Exchange: Doctor will remove some part of blood and mechanically separate blood cells from the fluid. Doctors mix the blood cells with replacement solution and return the blood to body4.

Medication: Doctor may prescribe immunosuppressive medication along with corticosteroids. This medication will suppress the immune system and reduce the risk of neuromyelitis optica attack. Immunosuppressive medications that can be prescribed are azathioprine, rituximab, and mycophenolate mofetil.

Eculizumab: Eculizumab is a first and FDA approved therapy for the treatment of anti-AQP4 antibody-positive neuromyelitis optica spectrum disease. When anti-AQP4 antibody bind with autoantibody, it activates the complement cascade which plays an important role in the development of neuromyelitis optica and related symptoms. Eculizumab act as complement inhibitors which inhibit C5 protein and inactivate complement cascade. Eculizumab reduces the risk of unpredictable attack and relapse5.


Headache such as Cervicogenic headache and Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia-like headache is caused by neuromyelitis optica. Through MRI of the brain, the lesions in the brain can be diagnosed in some patients suffering from neuromyelitis optica.


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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 17, 2019

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