Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy

What is narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a chronic, neurological sleep disorder with no known cause. It involves the body's central nervous system. Narcolepsy is a genetic disorder, and is caused by a deficiency in the production of a neuropeptide called orexin by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus.

The main characteristic of narcolepsy is excessive and overwhelming daytime sleepiness, even after adequate nighttime sleep. A person with narcolepsy is likely to become drowsy or to fall asleep at inappropriate times and places, and sleep attacks may occur with or without warning.

Attacks can occur repeatedly in a single day, drowsiness may persist for prolonged periods of time, and nighttime sleep may be fragmented with frequent awakenings.

What are the symptoms of narcolepsy?

The following are the most common symptoms of narcolepsy. However, individuals may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

Secondary or auxiliary symptoms include:

How is narcolepsy diagnosed?

A combination of EDS and cataplexy provide for preliminary clinical diagnosis.

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, laboratory tests to confirm diagnosis and plan treatment may include:

How is narcolepsy treated?

Specific treatment will be determined by your doctor based on:

The goal of treatment of narcolepsy is for the patient to remain as alert as possible during the day and to minimize any recurring episodes of cataplexy, while using a minimal amount of medication.

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