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What Happens To Untreated Neuromyelitis Optica & When To Go To The Doctor?

Neuromyelitis Optica is also referred to as Devic’s disease or Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder. It is a condition that affects the central nervous system by causing inflammation of the spinal cord and optic nerves. Inflammation of the spinal cord is known as myelitis whereas the inflammation of the optic nerves is referred to as optic neuritis. NMO can either be monophasic or recurrent, where monophasic neuromyelitis optica involves a single episode disease attack that can last for days or weeks, and thereafter no recurrence. On the other hand, the recurrence form of the condition involves repeated attacks with periods of remission in between the episodes, which could be months or years. The standard treatment therapies for neuromyelitis optica include intravenous corticosteroids, plasma exchange(plasmapheresis), and immunosuppressive medication for long-term management of the disease.[1]

What Happens To Untreated Neuromyelitis Optica?

What Happens To Untreated Neuromyelitis Optica?

For patients with neuromyelitis optica, disability and vision impairment are the most common side effects of the condition. There is no cure for neuromyelitis optica, but there are various therapies which help control the condition as well as slow down the disease process and the attacks. Disability associated with neuromyelitis optica can become severe if left untreated and can lead to irreversible damage on the spinal cord and on the functionality of various parts of the body affected. In most cases of neuromyelitis optica, patients experience blindness in one eye as only one of the optic nerves is infected. But with every time an attack occurs, more damage occurs and both optic nerves can be affected causing blindness in both eyes. Other complications associated with neuromyelitis optica are loss of sensation in various parts of the body, bladder and bowel dysfunction, and painful spasms. While attacks can be reversed, sometimes the damage done can be so severe that it results in lifelong defects.[2]

When To Go To The Doctor?

Treatment for neuromyelitis optica is meant to control the symptoms of the condition as prevent relapses, or rather the attacks associated with the disorder. Adding to that, some of the medication prescribed help diminish the activity of the immune system as well as reduce pain and inflammation of the optic nerves and spinal cord.

Therefore, if the medication doesn’t seem to work or are having adverse side effects from the treatment care, you should visit the doctor immediately for an evaluation of medication being taken. Additionally, if the symptoms worsen or start experiencing symptoms you hadn’t earlier on developed, then you should see a doctor immediately.
At the beginning of the condition, you should see a doctor as soon as you start experiencing numbness and weakness in the arms and legs, weakness in muscles of the face, and have a sudden loss of vision. Also, in the case of disease relapses, it is important to go see a doctor for further medical evaluation and the extent of the effect of the attacks. The be of the attacks can either be mild or severe and in cases of mild attacks, say of optic neuritis or transverse neuritis, there could be a good chance of recovery. Otherwise, if the attacks are severe, there can be debilitating consequences such as irreversible disability and blindness. So, in conclusion, it is important to go see a doctor whenever you have an attack, since something can be done early enough before serious damage is done.[3]


Complications are imminent in some conditions, and in others, they can be so severe that they result in lifelong defects. If neuromyelitis optica is left untreated, then a patient can develop serious complications with irreversible effects, and symptoms could worsen leading to long-term disability or visual impairment. Needless to say, one may lose functionality in other areas of the body where the attacks interfere with the muscles. Meet a doctor in incidences of disease relapse, worsening of symptoms as well as the development of new side effects of either due to the disease or medication prescribed.


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 17, 2019

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