By Adam Bartlett
What is Narcolepsy?
What system of the body is affected by narcolepsy?
The immune system is the system in the body that is affected by narcolepsy. When the body has narcolepsy, the immune system's immune cells that usually attack germs and other invasive things from coming into the body are also attacking the cells that make orexin in the body. Orexin (also known as hypocretin) is a neurotransmitter chemical in the body that promotes wakefulness (keeps you awake). In other words, immune cells are attacking cells that they shouldn't attack, which causes narcolepsy.
How does a healthy immune system run?
What does an immune system with narcolepsy look like?
When the body has narcolepsy, the immune system is the effected system. The immune cells that are in the immune system that should attack the germs and infections also attack the neurotransmitter that creates hypocretin (also called orexin). Hypocretin is a chemical in the body that keeps you awake. If your body doesn't have the required hypocretin, you can fall asleep without warning. These sleep episodes can occur at any time, so people with narcolepsy try to avoid driving or any activity that may be dangerous if they fell asleep while doing it.
Who is affected by narcolepsy? Is narcolepsy gender-specific? Do people of certain ages get the disease? Is it more or less common among certain races?
Males and females are affected by narcolepsy the same amount. The diagnosis of narcolepsy usually occurs during childhood, but it can appear any time. Narcolepsy does not appear in one or two countries; cases of narcolepsy have been reported from around the world. About 1 in every 3000 have narcolepsy with cataplexy, a very common symptom that is very rare without narcolepsy. In America, there are about 200,000 cases of narcolepsy, but only 50,000 of them are diagnosed. Narcolepsy is not related to gender, race, or age. It is usually random. Narcolepsy has been reported to appear in people with close relatives who have narcolepsy.
How does Narcolepsy arise?
This conditions is mostly random, meaning anyone can get it, anytime, no matter their family history. However, up to 10% of people with narcolepsy and cataplexy have reported having a family member experiencing like symptoms. In exceptionally rare cases though, individuals could have a birth defect that their body does not produce enough hypocretin to keep themselves awake, making them born with narcolepsy.
Diagnosis of Narcolepsy
Signs and Symptoms
Is Narcolepsy Life-threatening?
Do any famous people have narcolepsy?
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