What causes narcolepsy? Though there is a common belief that a person’s body mass index, immune responses and stressful life events are responsible towards causing narcolepsy, scientists have recently found that ‘environmental exposures’ before the age of onset in genetically susceptible individuals may also lead to the disease!
This identifying of the modifiable risk factors will eventually help in preventing the disease and such associations may reflect a consequence rather than a cause of disease. Thanks to Will Longstreth Jr., MD, MPH, and colleagues at the University of Washington for identifying and assessing this study.
Even after making this finding, investigators must intensify the search for these exposures focusing on the first two decades of life.
The task of finding the etiology for narcolepsy will always depend on a partnership with the basic sciences, but epidemiologic studies can have an important role to play in elucidating how pathophysiologic mechanisms ultimately impact the public’s health.