Your browser does not support javascript:   Search for gard hereSearch for news-and-events here.


Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Print friendly version

Devic disease

Other Names for this Disease
  • Devic syndrome
  • Devic's neuromyelitis optica
  • Neuromyelitis optica
  • NMO
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Your Question

I know my condition is not contagious via personal contact, but if had the condition while pregnant could my daughter have it also?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is Devic disease?

Devic disease, is an autoimmune disease affecting the spinal cord and optic nerves (the nerves that carry information regarding sight from the eye). In Devic disease the protective outer covering of the nerves (myelin) is lost. The syndrome can also damage nerve fibers and leave areas of broken-down tissue.[1]  Signs and symptoms worsen with time and include optic neuritistransverse myelitis, sensory impairment, and bladder and bowel dysfunction.[2] Currently there is no cure for Devic disease, but there are therapies to treat an attack while it is happening, to reduce symptoms, and to prevent relapses. In its early stages, Devic disease may be confused with multiple sclerosis.[3] 
Last updated: 10/13/2010

What causes Devic disease?

Most cases of Devic disease are idiopathic (meaning that the underlying mechanism that triggers the condition is unknown). Studies of affected cells and tissues have improved our understanding of the disease process. In Devic disease immune proteins (autoantibodies) attach themselves to specialized proteins in the spinal cord and optical nerve called "water channel proteins" (specifically aquaporin-4 or AQP4). The autoantibodies signal immune cells and proteins to attack resulting in damage to myelin and the breakdown of healthy nerves and tissues.[4]

There have been a few cases of Devic disease occurring in association with certain infectious conditions (e.g., syphilis, HIV, chlamydia, varicella, cytomegalovirus, and Epstein Barr virus). The nature of this association isn't clear. It is possible that certain infections may trigger Devic disease in individuals who are predisposed to the condition.[4]
Last updated: 10/13/2010

If I had Devic disease while pregnant, could I pass the condition on to my baby?

There is no evidence to suggest that Devic disease can be transmitted to a baby through pregnancy or delivery. Infectious conditions like HIV or cytomegalovirus (which have been reported  in association in a few cases of Devic disease) can be transmitted during pregnancy. These risks should be discussed with a healthcare provider.

It may be possible that affected individuals have a genetic predisposition to the condition. There have been a few case reports describing families with more than one affected member.[5] However, to date no specific genetic risk factors have been identified and specific risks to family members is unknown.
Last updated: 10/13/2010