Narcolepsy has always been a mystery disorder, but scientists have always had assumptions that it may be related to a problem with the immune system. New findings in recent research finally prove that Narcolepsy is actually caused by a misguided immune system response. The study was published in Science Translational Medicine on December 18th.
This new discovery could lead to a blood test in order to diagnose the disorder more effectively. Before this, diagnosing the disorder was always difficult, and usually included a variety of sleep studies. If one is already diagnosed with the disorder, the new findings will not change your current treatments.
Narcolepsy causes many symptoms that range from excessive sleepiness, to falling asleep during potentially dangerous times such as driving, that are called sleep attacks. These attacks can range from seconds to minutes depending on the severity of the disorder in the patient. It is also known that about 70 percent of patients with narcolepsy also have difficulties with cataplexy. Cataplexy causes sudden bouts of muscle weakness that affect about 3,000 people with Type One Narcolepsy.
Studies have shown that those who suffer from narcolepsy have low levels of hypocretin, a brain chemical that keeps a person awake. So experts now believe the chemical deficiency is caused by an abnormal immune system response that causes the immune system to attack certain brain cells that produce the hyprocretin brain chemical.
The disorder also is known to have genetic susceptibility. Scientists theorize that certain environmental triggers can also cause the abnormal immune system response to attack the brain cells as well. Infections seem to be the main culprit, and now evidence can be shown from the past H1N1 influenza that caused various narcoleptic attacks if people with the disorder contracted the virus.
So if anyone is concerned about such events, although narcolepsy is not a common disorder, it is always wise to check yourself into a sleep specialist in order to have proper testing conducted. Dr. Troy Payne, at the CentraCare Sleep Center here in Saint Cloud, is a well informed sleep specialist and neurologist that specializes within a variety of disorders that include rare sleep problems.
By Tina Elliott