Study Found That Narcolepsy is an Autoimmune Disease

Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that affects nearly 1 out of every 2,000 people in the United States. People with narcolepsy usually have periods of extreme tiredness during the day and are prone to fall asleep at inappropriate times. Oftentimes these 'spontaneous naps' will occur while working, watching TV or otherwise already engaged in an activity.

Stanford University conducted a study on narcolepsy that resulted in a huge change for narcolepsy: due to the study, it is now considered an autoimmune disease. The study consisted of full genetic scans of 1,800 people with a specific gene that is usually present with narcolepsy, the human leukocyte antigen, otherwise known as the HLA gene. The scientists found that 1,000 people did not have narcolepsy, although 800 did.

After studying further they found that those with narcolepsy had a specific genetic variation. This genetic variation affects receptors on the T cells, which are essential to the immune system. Finally, they determined that narcolepsy is an autoimmune disease condition, because the body's immune system is responsible for attacking its own cells and creating narcolepsy.

This new development may help researchers understand more about narcolepsy and autoimmune diseases in general. It may also help them develop more effective treatments. If scientists can figure out how to block the specific receptor that causes narcolepsy, they may be able to stop the disease, though this would be most helpful for a person predisposed to narcolepsy, or just starting to show signs of the disease. Most longtime patients of the disease have already developed brain damage.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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