Is a Blood Test for Narcolepsy on the Forefront?

Narcolepsy, the rare and long-term sleep disorder, may have a new way to be diagnosed — with the help of a unique type of blood test. The findings come from Alberto De la Herran-Arita who published a paper after discovering distinctions in the blood of people who have narcolepsy. The Huffington Post reported that his team of researchers found that autoimmune diseases may be linked to narcolepsy and that in the future, a simple blood test might indicate narcolepsy for that individual.

Herran-Arita found that people with narcolepsy have CD4 + T cells in their blood, but these cells did not exist among the people in the control group who did not have narcolepsy.

Who Suffers from Narcolepsy and its Affects

While not one of the most common sleep disorders, narcolepsy is a definite concern. It is a rare sleep disorder that affects men and women equally, with it beginning in adolescence for most individuals. Approximately one in every 3,000 people will be affected by narcolepsy, though the Stanford School of Medicine believes it may be one in every 2,000 people.

With narcolepsy, the person experiences overwhelming feelings of fatigue and sleepiness, along with having symptoms like hallucinations that are dream-like. In essence, the sufferer has poor control over his or her sleep/wake cycles. The sufferer can also feel paralyzed or weak for several seconds at a time.

The term narcolepsy itself is derived from the Greek word for numbness and attack. As such, sleep paralysis is a very common symptom of narcolepsy, as well as disturbances in REM sleep that cause the excessive sleepiness. Someone with narcolepsy enters REM sleep within only a few minutes of sleeping, though this takes a normal person up to 110 minutes.

Finding the Attacking Cells

There was also a study performed at the Stanford Center for Narcolepsy that looked at the causes of narcolepsy, potential treatments, and maybe even a way to prevent the sleep disorder. After the recent discovery that narcolepsy is linked to autoimmune diseases, Dr. Emmanuel Mignot has decided to research this further and find out if there is a way to prevent or cure the disease.The research involves looking for the exact cells that are causing an immune attack on neurons of the brain, which is how narcolepsy develops.

Moving forward, both sets of researchers are looking not just at how the disease can be diagnosed, but more effective treatments and perhaps a way to cure or prevent the disease.

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