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Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a neurological condition most characterized by Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS) episodes of sleep and disorder of REM or rapid eye movement sleep. People with narcolepsy often find it difficult to stay awake for long periods of time, regardless of the circumstances. In addition to excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), three other major symptoms frequently characterize narcolepsy: cataplexy, or the sudden loss of voluntary muscle tone; vivid hallucinations during sleep onset or upon awakening; and brief episodes of total paralysis at the beginning or end of sleep. Some people mistake narcolepsy for depression, seizure disorder, fainting, simple lack of sleep, or other conditions that may cause abnormal sleep patterns. Narcolepsy is not definitively diagnosed in most patients until 10 to 15 years after the first symptoms appear. Stimulants and antidepressants are used to treat narcolepsy and subsequent cataplexy. Although it has been linked with blood pressure management and depression, the genesis of narcolepsy is unknown. However, recent advances in narcolepsy study suggest the possibility of a cure.

Narcolepsy affects an estimated 25 in every 100,000 people in the United States. At various times throughout the day, people with narcolepsy experience fleeting urges to sleep. Narcolepsy can cause serious disruptions in your personal and professional lives. If the urge becomes overwhelming, individuals will fall asleep for periods lasting from a few seconds to several minutes. Narcolepsy usually begins when a person is in their teens or early twenties. People with narcolepsy have trouble staying awake. Although the cause of narcolepsy is unknown, it does occasionally run in families. If one person in a family has the disorder, another relative may be susceptible to developing it if certain environmental triggers occur Narcolepsy begins (has its onset) usually in teenagers or young adults and affects both sexes equally. Although there's no cure for narcolepsy, medications and lifestyle changes can help you manage the symptoms. And talking to others family, friends, employer, teachers can help you cope better with narcolepsy.

Causes of Narcolepsy

The common Causes of Narcolepsy :

  • Narcolepsy is caused by a virus which attacks our body's cells, resulting in various effects depending on the strain of the virus.
  • Loss of certain brain cells due to brain injury, toxins, and/or the body's destruction of its own tissues (autoimmune reaction)
  • Perform a careful neurologic examination to exclude other causes, including an underlying structural abnormality.
  • Infection
  • Changes in hormones
  • Stress

Symptoms of Narcolepsy

Some Symptoms of Narcolepsy :

  • Excessive sleepiness or sudden muscle weakness
  • Automatic behaviors (like driving home and not remembering how you got there!)
  • Hypnagogic hallucinations
  • Disrupted major sleep episode (disruption of the longest sleep episode that occurs on a daily basis)
  • Sleep paralysis

Treatment of Narcolepsy

  • Doctors often prescribe antidepressant medications, which suppress REM sleep, to help alleviate the symptoms of cataplexy, hypnagogic hallucinations and sleep paralysis. These medications include the tricyclic antidepressants protriptyline (Vivactil) and imipramine (Tofranil).
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (altering behaviour and thinking patterns).
  • Surgery to remove an enlarged spleen or to install a venous access device (large plastic tube) to give medications and withdraw blood samples.
  • Inquiries into depression, family conflict, and other psychosocial problems are also important.
  • It is often possible to break the cycle of Narcolepsy by deliberately staying awake for an entire night.
  • Scheduled naps during the day also may help.
  • Two separate forms are medication are normally used in narcolepsy treatment - one to reduce daytime sleepiness and the other to counter the effects of cataplexy, hallucinations and sleep paralysis.

 


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