Neuromyelitis Optica: A Year-Long Struggle to Regain Sight

According to a story from marieclaire.co.uk, Vanessa Potter, a TV producer, suddenly woke up one morning to realize that her eyesight was rapidly failing. That morning, her mind felt fogged and her eyes wouldn’t focus. Vanessa’s husband Ed soon drove her to the hospital, but the doctors didn’t have a clue what was happening. Over the next three days, Vanessa’s vision disappeared completely. Ultimately, she would be diagnosed with neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD), a rare disease.

About Neuromyelitis Optica

Neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (NMOSD) is a term meant to include both neuromyelitis optica patients and those that lack the APQ4 auto antibody but still present similarly otherwise. This disorder is also known as Devic’s disease. It is characterized by inflammation of the optic nerve and spinal cord along with destruction of the myelin sheath, an insulating, protective layer surrounding nerve cells. It is considered an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly begins attacking parts of the body. It is frequently associated with other diseases, such as viral infection and antiMOG associated encephalomyelitis, the latter of which can be a direct cause in some cases. Symptoms include blindness, urinary incontinence, spastic paralysis of the legs and arms, reduced sensation, and overall muscle weakness. Symptoms can be treated, but many patients are left with a degree of impairment. To learn more about neuromyelitis optica, click here.

Vanessa’s Story

After being stuck in the hospital for two weeks, Vanessa was legally blind. Her five year old daughter helped her navigate, and every now and then Vanessa would see some small flicker of light or other detail. Still, it wasn’t clear if her sight would ever recover. She also experienced debilitating numbness that prevented her from walking. Husband Ed now had to take over most household tasks as well as working full time. Needless to say, it was a challenging time for the Potter family.

Over the next year, Vanessa’s vision slowly began to recover. Blue was the first color to re-emerge after months of black and white. While her vision isn’t what it was before her symptoms appeared, she is now able to navigate the world—but not all neuromyelitis optica patients are as fortunate.


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