Narcolepsy is a life-long neurological disorder which is characterized by sleep attacks, excessive sleepiness, hallucinations, sleep paralysis, and even sudden loss of muscle control, also known as cataplexy. Some people suffering from narcolepsy may also complain of double vision, blurred vision, or droopy eyelids.
People suffering from narcolepsy often feel very sleepy during the daytime and experience uncontrollable and irregular episodes of falling asleep. The bouts of sleep can last for several minutes. The sudden sleep attacks can happen at any time of the day such as during a conversation, at work or school, when eating a meal or playing a game, or even when driving a car. Nearly 1 in 2,000 to 3,000 is affected by narcolepsy but it often remains undiagnosed for many years.
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Causes of narcolepsy:
According to the latest research, narcolepsy is caused by the abnormalities in the function and structure of hypocretin neurons. These nerve cells are located in the hypothalamus are usually secrete neurotransmitter substances called hypocretins. Abnormalities associated with hypocretin system are thought to be the cause behind the abnormal REM sleep and daytime sleepiness found in narcolepsy.
Signs and symptoms:
Apart from symptoms mentioned above that are the hallmarks of narcolepsy, other signs include disturbed nocturnal sleep and increased body movements. Nearly 60 to 80 percent of the patients may also exhibit signs of automatic behavior such as performing some actions without conscious awareness whilst uttering irrelevant words. This usually happens when the person is alternating between sleep and wakefulness.
Some people suffering from narcolepsy may also go through a temporary loss of muscle control, which is also referred to as cataplexy. A cataplexy attack is often a result of strong emotional reactions such as anger, surprise, or laughter. Stress, fatigue, and sleepiness increase the likelihood of cataplexy attacks. When the attack is severe, the patient may collapse and fall to the ground.
However, severe attacks are rare as most patients only go through milder forms that result in a sagging jaw, slurred speech.
Dropping head, or weakness in the arms.
Muscle weaknesses are usually subtle and the patient usually stays conscious but temporarily loses his ability to speak. The duration of cataplectic attacks can range from a few seconds to several minutes. The frequency varies from patient to patient, with some experiencing numerous attacks on a daily basis, while some only going through it a few times every year. Nearly 75 percent of patients with narcolepsy complain of cataplectic attacks.
Narcolepsy is treated through a mix of drugs and behavioral therapies but treatment options are tailored according to the living conditions of the patient, the severity of the symptoms, and the goals of the therapy. Continued communication between the patient, doctor, family members, and others is required to manage symptoms.
Since narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that affects the patterns of sleep and wakefulness, it is recommended that you visit a neurologist. You can find and book an appointment with top Neurologists in Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad through oladoc.com. You can also call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your health concerns.