A Widely Popular Allergy Medication Could Prevent Relapse in Neuromyelitis Optica

According to an article from brightsurf.com, a commonly used allergy medication called cetirizine (commonly marketed under the name Zyrtec) was able to prevent relapse in patients with neuromyelitis optica in a recent study. This could potentially offer a new treament option for people with this rare disease.

Neuromyelitis optica (NMO), also known as Devic’s syndrome, is a condition in which optic nerve and spinal cord lose their protective myelin sheath covering and become inflamed. The disease is genetically linked and is considered in autoimmune disease, a situation in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the body. This damage to the optic nerve and spinal cord leads to vision loss and muscle weakness, as well as problems with sensation and loss of bladder and bowel control. While some patients may experience one episode of symptoms and then experience permanent remission, in many people, the disease manifests as sporadic episodes in which symptoms become severe or worsen. Most people with neuromyelitis optica experience some degree of long term vision and/or mobility impairment. To learn more about this disease, click here.

The ability of cetirizine to help prevent relapse in people with NMO could be a result of the effects that the drug can have on the immune system. Many current treatments used for NMO focus on addressing the action of lymphocyte white blood cells, but prior research has indicated that another type of white blood cell, called granulocytes, could also play a role in the mechanism of the condition. It appears the cetirizine could be effective by affecting the activity of these cells.

The trial was conducted on a small scale with a total of 16 patients. The study measured the relapse rate in these patients by comparing the rate from before the use of cetirizine with the rate after using the treatment. It is important to note that cetirizine was not being tested on its own; the patients were also continuing their established treatments for NMO that they had begun prior to the study. This means that cetirizine would be a supplementary therapy to already available treatments. While the results appear promising, the small scale of the study suggests the need for further evaluation.

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