Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO) Program

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The Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO) Program provides clinical services with a research component for Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO) cases.

The program is also involved in clinical research concerning the cause and consequences of NMO, raising public awareness, and disseminating information about the disease to the community and health care professionals. 

What to expect

In the initial assessment, you will be thoroughly evaluated by a neurologist (with an expertise in NMO) and additional team members. Treatment options and follow-up appointments are managed accordingly.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the symptoms of Neuromyelitis Optica?

    • Typical attack symptoms can be:
    • Sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes (optic neuritis) and/or
    • Numbness and/or weakness in the legs and arms (transverse myelitis)

    These symptoms usually develop over days which can help separate them from the signs of stroke which occur instantly.

  • How is Neuromyelitis Optica diagnosed?

    Testing by a neurologist with specialization in multiple sclerosis and Neuromyelitis Optica is often required.

    The tests conducted often include:

    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and spinal cord
    • Vision tests
    • Blood tests for antibodies
  • How is Neuromyelitis Optica treated?

    Neuromyelitis Optica is a treatable disease and prevention of attacks using common medications such as imuran (azathioprine) is recommended after careful assessment by a specialist.

    Standard treatment for acute attacks include inravenous steroids as soon as possible after the onset of a severe attack. Milder attacks may require steroids taken by mouth.

    These treatments should be started as soon as possible of onset of a severe attack. Milder attacks may require steroids taken by mouth.

  • Who gets Neuromyelitis Optica?

    Similar to MS, Neuromyelitis Optica is more common in women between the ages of 20 and 40.

    However, we've seen this develop in children as young as two and adults in their 60s.

  • How does the rate of Neuromyelitis Optica occurrence compare with multiple sclerosis?

    Neuromyelitis Optica is rare compared to multiple sclerosis. For example in BC over 9000 people have multiple sclerosis compared to 150 with Neuromyelitis Optica.

    In general, multiple sclerosis is much less common in people of east and south east Asian ethnicity. However, at least one third of those diagnosed with MS actually have NMO.

This service is available at
This service is available at

Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO) Program at UBC Hospital

2211 Wesbrook Mall
Vancouver, BC V6T 2B5
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