What is Neuromyelitis Optica / Devic’s Disease?


Devic’s disease, which is also called neuromyelitis optica, is one of the more severe side effects that one can develop as a result of a vaccination. The symptoms of this condition are so severe that it is often mistaken for cases of multiple sclerosis as the two diseases profile similarly. Devic’s Disease will cause a significant disruption in the life of a patient. One of the major problems with the condition is that it can recur several times and the patient may never be fully cured. If this condition results from vaccination, there is the possibility that the patient can file a claim with the Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund. Accordingly, those who have developed this after they have received a vaccination should consult with a vaccine injury attorney.

What is Devic’s Disease?

Devic’s Disease occurs when there is an inflammation of the protective covering of the optic nerves and the spinal cord. This disease specifically targets the myelin, which is the protective covering around the nerve. This is a disease that occurs when your immune system attacks the cells in the central nervous system. The result is a wide variety of side effects that can be painful or debilitating. Patients often lose control over parts of their bodies, including some reduced sensation or even incontinence.

There are many different symptoms that can result from Devic’s Disease. Since the condition can affect the optic nerve, many of the complications affect the vision. Patients can suffer from temporary or even permanent loss of vision in at least one eye. They may also lose the ability to see color or experience worsening pain in their eyes.

When it comes to their limbs, patients often feel tingling or burning in their extremities as part of a set of altered sensations. They may lose sensation, leading to partial paralysis. This loss of control can extend to both the bladder and the bowels.

The Causes of Devic’s Disease

The exact cause of the disease is not known. There is generally a triggering event that causes the immune system to turn against the body. In some cases, a vaccine will cause the immune system to attack the nervous system. This also happens when a patient develops Guillain-Barre Syndrome as a result of a vaccination. Devic’s Disease is generally not a hereditary condition and many of the risk factors are not known. One thing that is known is that Devic’s Disease can attack someone in the wake of an infection.

One of the challenges for physicians is diagnosing this condition. Devic’s Disease is extremely rare. At most, it attacks roughly one in every 200,000 people. Its symptoms often present themselves as similar to other conditions like multiple sclerosis, lupus or viral inflammations. Oftentimes, it can take a physician a considerable amount of time to rule other things out before diagnosing a patient with Devic’s Disease. It is only after a series of blood tests, spinal taps and MRIs that a physician can make the rare diagnosis.

Some cases of Devic’s Disease can be treated and will conclusively go away. However, there is a form of the condition that recurs. This is the type that can have the most widespread impact on a patient.

Devic’s Disease can be fatal for a percentage of people who develop the condition. They would ultimately die from the respiratory effects of the condition. The disease would impact their ability to breathe. This is more common in cases of the disease that relapse.

Treatment for Devic’s Disease

There is no known cure for Devic’s disease and those who suffer from it are prone to relapses of the condition. In fact, it is when the symptoms of the disease recur that they tend to be the most severe. There are some treatments available that can help patients manage the intensity of the symptoms.

One way to treat the disease is through a regimen of steroids. If the patient does not respond to steroids, they can undergo plasma exchange in which the antibodies that caused the inflammation are removed from the blood and replaced with healthy antibodies. One of the key factors in the treatment of the disease and preventing relapse is the suppression of the immune system which is causing the disease. Sometimes, administering AZT to the patient is successful in accomplishing this.

Devic’s Disease and Vaccinations

While Devic’s Disease is exceedingly rare, some cases of it may result from vaccinations. For example, there have been cases of the disease that have been connected to a seasonal flu vaccine. One 38-year old woman developed the disease and started to experience symptoms three days after she received a flu shot. Although the study of the case did not establish a concrete linkage between the vaccination and the disease, it concluded that the disease “may have been triggered by the recent influenza vaccination.”

Beyond triggering an onset of the disease, vaccination may also cause a relapse of the condition in patients who have already had it. However, the risk is reduced if the patients are receiving some sort of immunotherapy. In fact, a study showed that nearly 20 percent of patients who already had Devic’s Disease experienced a relapse after a vaccine.

Devic’s Disease and the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

There have been several cases in Vaccine Court relating to neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder. Although some petitions for compensation have either been dismissed or denied, others have been successful in recovering substantial compensation for the claimant. In one 2016 case, a petition was filed after the claimant alleged that he suffered from neuromyelitis optica (“NMO”) and transverse myelitis after a DTaP vaccination. The plaintiff suffered the residual effects of this injury for six months. He was awarded a lump sum of $379,367.17 even though the government did not concede that the vaccine caused the injuries. This compensated him for both pain and suffering as well as the lost earnings that he suffered by not being able to work.

However, other decisions show that the government often litigates such cases in vaccine court. This is why you need an experienced vaccine injury lawyer on your side. The attorneys at The attorneys at The Law Offices of Sadaka Associates are experienced  and fight on behalf of their clients to ensure that they receive compensation when they are eligible.

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