Conditions InDepth: Narcolepsy
Unfortunately, no one knows exactly what causes some people to have narcolepsy. Research focuses on some genetic markers that many people with narcolepsy share. It appears, however, that there are also some unidentified environmental factors that are involved in the development of this disorder. Other research is examining whether narcolepsy might be an autoimmune disorder, in which the immune system accidentally attacks and destroys a specific area of the brain. The area in question controls sleep and wakefulness. However, some as yet unidentified factor may be causing the brain’s sleep control center to degenerate.
Researchers estimate that 200,000 Americans are affected by narcolepsy, although less than 50,000 have actually been diagnosed. This is because narcolepsy is often ignored or mistaken for other disorders, such as
Goetz CG, Pappert EJ. Textbook of Clinical Neurology. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 1999.
Narcolepsy. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/nar/nar_what.html. Updated November 2008. Accessed April 7, 2009.
Last reviewed February 2009 by
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