Study: What is the Association Between Asthma and Narcolepsy?

A recent study published in Nature and Science of Sleep looked at asthma and its possible connection to narcolepsy, actually finding indications that an asthma diagnosis raises the risk of narcolepsy. This information is extremely helpful as it could help doctors to diagnose this neurological disorder sooner and more accurately. Considering that a narcolepsy diagnosis can be delayed by up to 15 years, this research is very important.

About the Study

Asthma and narcolepsy have been associated in the past, due to both similar immunopathological mechanisms and narcolepsy’s tendency to cause breathing disorders like asthma. Because of this prior connection, researchers from Taiwan wanted to further investigate the two conditions.

They did this by analyzing data sourced from 2000 to 2013 from Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Research Database. 502 narcolepsy patients were included, and they were matched 1:3 with controls based on age, index year, and sex. Specifically, the researchers aimed to discover the association between narcolepsy and asthma through multiple logistic regression analyses.

Based on this research, they found that narcolepsy patients were three times more likely to also have asthma. This data confirms the connection between the two conditions, and it also points to an asthma diagnosis as a possible indicator of narcolepsy.

Beyond just establishing the connection in general, researchers also aimed to understand bronchodilators’ and corticosteroids’ impact on this connection. They found that the use of inhaled corticosteroids reduces the risk of narcolepsy comorbidity in asthma patients by 53%. Bronchodilators showed no such effect.

While further research is necessary to fully understand the association between narcolepsy and asthma, this study is very helpful in identifying the connection and aiding in diagnosis.

About Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that stops the brain from regulating one’s sleep-wake cycle. It is characterized by instantly falling asleep for a few minutes or longer, depending on the severity of one’s symptoms. Some people experience hallucinations while asleep or directly after waking up. People also often have cataplexy, which is the sudden loss of muscle control, along with narcolepsy, but this is not the case for everybody. When people have both disorders it is known as type one narcolepsy. Cataplexy is triggered by a strong emotion, such as fear or anger, and it manifests as uncontrollable muscle weakness or paralysis. Those who have cataplexy without narcolepsy are often misdiagnosed, as doctors think it is a seizure disorder. Depending on severity, cataplexy can be slight eyelid drooping or the inability to remain standing. One is usually awake during a cataplectic attack but are unable to move. As cataplexy is often related to narcolepsy, people fall asleep after an attack.

The most common cause of an attack is laughter. The destruction of the neurotransmitter hypocretin, which regulates wakefulness, is the root of cataplexy. The cause of narcolepsy type two, which is narcolepsy without cataplexy, is unknown. It is believed that genetics play a part in the disorder, but it is not often passed down from parent to child. Symptoms of type two narcolepsy include sleep paralysis, hallucinations, and changes in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. In terms of treatment, there are drugs available to treat cataplexy. Xyrem, which was approved in 2002 by the FDA, is used to treat narcolepsy itself, but due to its high potential for abuse it is tightly regulated. Besides drugs, people with narcolepsy often take regularly scheduled naps and do not drink alcohol or caffeine before bed.

Find the source article here.

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