Deirdre Budd’s Blog

Narcolepsy

Posted on: May 6, 2009

Narcolepsy is a chronic disorder caused by the brain’s inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles normally. It is relatively rare and accompanied by a significant degree of functional impairment. The hallmark of Narcolepsy is excessive daytime sleepiness. Other symptoms include cataplexy sleep paralysis and hallucinations during sleep onset or awakening. It is not usually definitively diagnosed until about 10-15 years after symptoms appear.

Recent research shows that narcolepsy is related to unique gene variants and auto-immunity. It is reported in Nature Genetics that it is hoped that defining the changes in the T cell receptor associated with narcolepsy and catoplexy it may later be possible to develop drugs which will prevent the onset of narcolepsy.

At the moment the symptoms of narcolepsy are often misdiagnosed, particularly in children and adolescents, as psychiatric or behavioural disorders such as ADHD, depression and even psychosis. Most people find that the symptoms worsen over the two or three decades after they symptoms first appear.

Current treatment of Narcolepsy can usually result in control the daytime sleepiness, and the loss of muscle tone (cataplexy). Each treatment plan includes medication, education and behavioural changes. Narcolepsy is a chronic lifetime disorder that will always require management. The goal of treatment is adaptation and improved quality of life.

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