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Is Neuromyelitis Optica A Disability & Can You Claim Disability Benefits?

Is Neuromyelitis Optica A Disability?

Neuromyelitis optica significantly reduces the level of living in the patient. The disease affects the vision and causes numbness and weakness. The condition is not directly listed but the patient may claim disability benefits with the help of a disability lawyer.

Is Neuromyelitis Optica A Disability?

Quality Of Life With Neuromyelitis Optica

Neuromyelitis optica is the condition affected the optic nerve and spinal cord. The condition is progressive in the form of attacks. With each subsequent attack, the severity of disease increases. Quality of life is significantly reduced in patients with neuromyelitis optica. The condition is considered as one of the most relapsing autoimmune diseases, causing myelitis, optic neuritis, and brainstem syndromes2. Apart from vision changes and increased risk of paralysis, the patient may experience cognitive impairment and depression due to structural changes in the brain.

Common symptoms experienced by a patient suffering from neuromyelitis optica include eye pain, weakness or numbness especially in arm or legs, vision loss, problematic vision, muscle spasm, poor bladder control, and sexual dysfunction3.

There is no known treatment for neuromyelitis optica, the symptoms can be managed through various medications. To reduce nerve inflammation, steroids and biological drugs such as rituximab are prescribed. As the condition is due to a hyperactive immune system, immunosuppressant drugs such as mycophenolate may help reduce symptoms.

Can You Claim Disability Benefits?

Neuromyelitis optica is not directly included in disability listing. To get the disability benefits from social security administration, the person has to prove that this condition has resulted in the symptoms because of which the person is not able to earn. For getting the disability benefits, this condition can be divided into two major highly debilitating conditions that originate from neuromyelitis optica. One is optic neuritis and the other one is myelitis.

Optic neuritis may lead to blindness and visual problems. Optic neuritis may occur in single or both the eyes due to neuromyelitis optica. The person with optic neuritis is only able to claim benefits when the vision is low in both the eyes. The poor vision is the vision which cannot be corrected through glasses. If the vision of only one eye gets hampered the patient may not be able to avail disability benefits at least for optic neuritis4.

Patients with neuromyelitis optica may be represented with traverse myelitis. Although, this condition is not listed in the Social Security Administration booklet but can be considered equivalent to spinal cord disorders envisaged under 11.085. For getting the benefits under this listing, the patient should have to meet the below criteria:

  • Total functional loss of a body part such as arm or leg,
  • Difficulty in standing up, and
  • A serious limitation in concentration and thinking

Symptoms Of Neuromyelitis Optica

Neuromyelitis optica is the condition characterized by damage to the optic nerve and spinal cord. The patient, to have diagnosed with neuromyelitis optica, should have at least one attack causing inflammation in the optic nerve and spinal cord. Out of its two types, relapsing form and monophasic form, the relapsing form is relatively more common1. The condition is caused because of the attack of the immune system on the optic nerve and spinal cord. As the condition majorly affects the optic nerve and spinal cord, the symptoms are generally associated with these structures:

Ocular Symptoms: The ocular symptoms are due to inflammation of the optic nerve. Patient experiences severe pain in the eye and suddenly the patient may have blurred vision or even have blindness. The condition most commonly occurs in a single eye however, both eyes may sometimes get affected.

Myelitis Symptoms: The symptoms of myelitis may be caused due to inflammation in the spinal cord. The patient may feel numbness and pain in the arms and legs. The patient also feels weakness and paralysis. Further, the patient may experience bladder problems, headache, nausea, and vomiting.


For claiming disability, the patient has to prove that this condition has either cause a low vision in both eyes or there is a serious limitation in thinking, difficulty in standing up or there is total functional loss of an organ.


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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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