About MS and Neuroimmunological Conditions

Autoimmune encephalitis is the name for a group of related conditions in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the brain or spinal cord. There are many different types of autoimmune encephalitis, which can either get worse over time or alternate between periods of "flare ups" and recovery.

Symptoms vary from person to person but include

  • Loss of ability to speak
  • Abnormal body movements
  • Psychiatric problems
  • Seizures

Treatments for autoimmune encephalitis include steroids and immunosuppressive medications to reduce inflammation and symptoms as well as speech, occupational, and physical therapy to help patients regain function and mobility.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a life-long, progressive disease of the brain and nervous system. MS occurs when the immune system attacks myelin, the protective layer that covers nerve fibers. These attacks continue until the nervous system is damaged, keeping the brain, spinal cord and body from sending messages correctly.\

Signs and symptoms of MS vary from person to person, depending on what nerves are affected and the extent of the damage. Common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Problems walking or moving
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Spasticity (stiffness or muscle spasms, often in the legs)
  • Weakness
  • Eye problems (blurred or reduced sight)
  • Dizziness
  • Pain
  • Difficulty learning, remembering, or paying attention
  • Depression or emotional difficulties
  • Bladder, sexual, or bowel problems

While there is no cure for MS, treatment can help you manage symptoms and improve your quality of life. Treatment for MS is an ongoing process. 

Read more about MS at the National MS Society.

Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is a rare autoimmune condition in which the body's immune system reacts abnormally and attacks the spinal cord and the nerves of the eyes.

Symptoms vary, but include

These symptoms may include:

  • vision loss
  • eye pain
  • colours appearing faded or less vivid
  • pain, weakness, or muscle spasms in the arms and legs
  • increased sensitivity to cold and heat
  • vomiting
  • bladder, bowel, or sexual problems

NMO has no cure, but treatments can help reduce symptoms, prevent or delay relapses, and slow NMO's progression. Treatments include medications to suppress the immune response or reduce inflammation, therapies, and support groups.

Neurosarcoidosis is a form of the rare chronic disease sarcoidosis. In neurosarcoidosis, inflammation damages the myelin coating of nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, or optic nerve. This damage reduces the body's ability to function normally.

Symptoms depend on the area most affected by inflammation but include

  • Changes in menstrual periods
  • Fatigue
  • Excessive thirst or urination
  • Confusion, disorientation
  • Loss of hearing, smell, or taste
  • Double vision or other vision problems
  • Headache
  • Weakness or drooping in the face
  • Speech impairment
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of movement

While there is no cure for neurosarcidosis, treatment can reduce the severity of symptoms. Physical and occupational therapy can also help patients make lifestyle adjustments.

The Duke Neurological Disorders Clinic is dedicated to providing patients with state-of-the-art, efficient, and compassionate care for MS, neuromyelitis optica, neurosarcoidosis, autoimmune encephalitis, and other neuroimmunological conditions. Our team includes physicians and physician assistants, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and psychologists who will work with you to find therapies that meets your needs based on your symptoms and personal preferences. Find a provider or make an appointment today.