Understanding NMOSD

People living with neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD) experience debilitating symptoms, including blindness, muscle weakness and paralysis. We’re making strides in understanding this rare autoimmune disease – here’s what we think you should know about its causes and symptoms.

What is NMOSD?

Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder, or NMOSD, is a rare, lifelong and debilitating autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (CNS), characterized by inflammation in the optic nerve and spinal cord.1

Who gets NMOSD?

The disease is most common among non-Caucasian women in their 30s and 40s and affects nearly 15,000 people in the United States.1,2

What happens in the body?

In NMOSD, the immune system mistakes normal tissues of the CNS as being foreign and attacks the optic nerve and spinal cord.1

Role of IL-6

The exact cause of NMOSD remains unknown. Interleukin 6, or IL-6, is a protein in our bodies made by many immune cells that may play a key role in the inflammation that occurs in people with NMOSD, which can lead to unpredictable and severe relapses.3

What are the symptoms of NMOSD?1

muscle weakness
inability to walk

Severity of NMOSD

The first attack can lead to accumulating, permanent neurological damage, visual impairment and disability, and in some cases death. Because NMOSD is a progressive disease, symptoms continue to build with each relapse.1,4

Within five years, 50% of people require a wheelchair and 62% are functionally blind, or don’t have useful vision.1,4


  1. Wingerchuk DM, Lennon VA, Lucchinetti CF, et al. Lancet Neurol 2007;6:805-815.
  2. Guthy Jackson Foundation. NMO FAQs. https://guthyjacksonfoundation.org/nmo-faqs. Accessed March 22, 2019.
  3. Chihara N, Aranami T, Sato W, Miyazaki Y, Miyake S, Okamoto T, et al. Interleukin 6 signaling promotes anti‐aquaporin 4 autoantibody production from plasmablasts in neuromyelitis optica. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2011; 108: 3701–6.
  4. Kessler RA, et al. Neurol Neuroimmunol Neuroinflamm 2016;3: e269.