Specialists in sleep disorders gathered in Seville for the celebration of the XX Annual Meeting of the Spanish Sleep Society (SES), have indicated that there is new evidence that indicates that narcolepsy is an autoimmune disease.
Among the main symptoms of this condition of neurological origin, which is included within the sleep disorders, and that suffer about 25,000 Spaniards, highlight a fragmentation of the nocturnal sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, and the appearance of cataplexy attacks (loss muscle tone induced by emotions such as laughter or surprise) with an average duration of less than two minutes.
Although there were previous data that raised the theory that it is an autoimmune pathology, specialists have referred to the recent results of a clinical study, which has shown that the plasma of narcolepsy patients with cataplexy contains antibodies against a peptide that It is found in the cells that produce hypocretin, involved in the correct regulation of sleep. According to these data, the antibodies would be at their highest level at the beginning of the disease, and although they decrease significantly after two or three years of evolution, they remain elevated for more than 30 years.
They recalled that, although most cases of narcolepsy are sporadic, there is a certain genetic predisposition, and some studies reveal that first-degree relatives of patients with narcolepsy have a 10 to 40 times higher risk of suffering from this disorder than the general population.
However, as explained by Dr. Georgina Botebol, member of the Spanish Sleep Society "although genetic predisposition intervenes in the development of the disease, by itself it is not enough to develop it, so the contribution of environmental factors is necessary, as an infection, dysfunction of the immune system, trauma, hormonal changes, stress ... ", which would act as triggers.
In this line, some researches have managed to identify that streptococcal infections (caused by streptococcus bacteria), such as tonsillitis, pneumonia or meningitis, can be an environmental risk factor that triggers the onset of narcolepsy.
Profile of the patient with narcolepsy
At present, the prevalence of narcolepsy is 0.02-0.05 percent of the population, which is why this disorder affects around 25,000 people in our country.
When it comes to determining what is the typical profile of the patient with narcolepsy, Dr. Botebol acknowledges that "although there are not many studies in this regard, we know that people with narcolepsy are very perfectionist and demanding in the face of reality, both external and internal, and it seems that they also react in an exaggerated way to stress ".
In the case of pediatric patients, it seems that the "most revealing" symptom of this sleep disorder is the fact that they fall asleep in class despite having slept the number of hours sufficient for their age, and whenever it occurs with certain Frequently and the child does not present another illness that could be related, also making sure that he really sleeps the necessary hours because, as Botebol has warned, "little importance is given to nocturnal sleep and the current pace of life generally leads to disrespect the nocturnal schedules ".
Fear of sleep
Epidemiological studies have shown that narcolepsy has a significant negative impact on the quality of life of people affected by this disease, even compared to patients suffering from other pathologies, such as epilepsy, or other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea. dream.
Dr. Botebol believes that "there is still no adequate knowledge of these pathologies among the general population, which means that patients do not receive the necessary support from their social, work and even family environment".
People with narcolepsy tend to avoid social gatherings, either for fear of falling asleep, or for refusing to submit to possible situations that trigger episodes of cataplexy. "They live with fear of losing their job, and present cognitive alterations that make it difficult for them to develop their professional activity, which directly also affects their mood", he concluded.
Source: Europa Press