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Home :: Neurology Disorders

Narcolepsy - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


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Narcolepsy may lead to impairment of social and academic performance in otherwise intellectually normal children. Narcolepsy is strongly associated with HLA DQB1 0602 genotype. People with narcolepsy experience highly individualized patterns of REM sleep disturbances that tend to begin subtly and may change dramatically over time. The most common major symptom, other than excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), is cataplexy, which occurs in about 70 percent of all patients. Sleep paralysis and hallucinations are somewhat less common. Narcoleptic symptoms, especially EDS, often prove more severe when the disorder develops early in life rather than during the adult years.It's rare for narcolepsy to begin after age 40. Narcolepsy is chronic, which means signs and symptoms may vary in severity, but they never go away entirely. Cataplexy is frequently treated with tricyclic antidepressants such as clomipramine , imipramine , or protriptyline. Non-drug treatments include the disease-specific education of the patient and family members and modification of behavior patterns. Behavioral approaches include establishing a regular, structured sleep-wake schedule.

Causes of Narcolepsy

Common Causes and Risk factors of Narcolepsy

  • Stress.
  • Niemann-Pick disease.
  • Prader-Willi syndrome.
  • Infections.
  • Exposure to toxins.
  • Dietary factors.
  • Hormonal changes.
  • Certain variations in the HLA complex.

Signs and Symptoms of Narcolepsy

Common Sign and Symptoms of Narcolepsy

  • Cataplexy.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Sleepiness.
  • Automatic behavior.
  • Hypnogogic and Hypnopompic Hallucinations

Treatment for Narcolepsy

Common Treatment for Narcolepsy

  • Several treatments are available for narcolepsy. Cataplexy is frequently treated with tricyclic antidepressants such as clomipramine , imipramine , or protriptyline.
  • Gamma-hydroxybutyrate has also been shown to reduce symptoms of EDS associated with narcolepsy.
  • Antidepressant medications and other drugs that suppress REM sleep are prescribed. Tricyclic antidepressants, such as imipramine or chlorimimipramine, are the most widely prescribed medications for the three subsymptoms of narcolepsy.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as fluoxetine (Prozac), work especially well in treating cataplexy.
  • Sodium oxybate (Xyrem), also known as gamma-hydroxybutyrate or GHB, is another medication with anticataplectic effects.
  • Modafinil is usually used in a single daily dose.