This article addresses the clinical presentation, diagnosis, pathophysiology and management of narcolepsy type 1 and 2, with a focus on recent findings. A low level of hypocretin-1/orexin-A in the cerebrospinal fluid is sufficient to diagnose narcolepsy type 1, being a highly specific and sensitive biomarker, and the irreversible loss of hypocretin neurons is responsible for the main symptoms of the disease: sleepiness, cataplexy, sleep-related hallucinations and paralysis, and disrupted nocturnal sleep. The process responsible for the destruction of hypocretin neurons is highly suspected to be autoimmune, or dysimmune. Over the last two decades, remarkable progress has been made for the understanding of these mechanisms that were made possible with the development of new techniques. Conversely, narcolepsy type 2 is a less well-defined disorder, with a variable phenotype and evolution, and few reliable biomarkers discovered so far. There is a dearth of knowledge about this disorder, and its aetiology remains unclear and needs to be further explored. Treatment of narcolepsy is still nowadays only symptomatic, targeting sleepiness, cataplexy and disrupted nocturnal sleep. However, new psychostimulants have been recently developed, and the upcoming arrival of non-peptide hypocretin receptor-2 agonists should be a revolution in the management of this rare sleep disease, and maybe also for disorders beyond narcolepsy.
Keywords: narcolepsy type 1; narcolepsy type 2; orexin/hypocretin; pathophysiology; treatment.
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