Yes, some people have a full house of symptoms, while others experience only several. Since both the spectrum and severity of symptoms can vary considerably most people with narcolepsy are impacted to differing degrees.
Yes, there are two forms of Narcolepsy: Narcolepsy with Cataplexy (Type 1) and Narcolepsy without Cataplexy (Type 2). In N+C, an autoimmune reaction destroys the brain’s 70,000 hypocretin-producing cells.
No, people are not born with Narcolepsy. Generally, symptoms become apparent typically between the ages of 10-20 years although very young children are now being diagnosed.
Narcolepsy affects 1 in 2,000 people – over 200,000 Americans and 3 million people worldwide. In other parts of the world such as Japan, Narcolepsy appears as frequently as 1 in every 500. Narcolepsy is not rare, but it is severely under-recognized, under-reported and often misdiagnosed disorder that occurs equally in men and women.
Narcolepsy is almost always caused by the lack of a neurotransmitter called hypocretin, or orexin. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that neurons produce to communicate with each other and to regulate biological processes. Loss of hypocretin results in the inability to regulate sleep.
The reason for such cell loss remains unknown, but appears to be autoimmune in nature. That is, the body’s immune system selectively attacks hypocretin-containing brain cells. In rare cases, Narcolepsy can be caused by a genetic defect that prevents normal production of hypocretin molecules or a physical head injury.
Recent research points to two infectious agents that may be involved in triggering the condition. Frequently, Narcolepsy onset follows a seasonal pattern of higher rates in spring and early summer, following winter upper airway infection season. Researchers are investigating a possible link between Narcolepsy onset and streptococcus infection, such as strep throat and the H1N1 virus and vaccine.
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