Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a clinical and neurological disorder that affects the sleep control centers of the brain. The condition is characterized by excessive daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep. Narcoleptic people often find it hard to stay awake for long periods of time, regardless of circumstances. Pathological narcolepsy may already disrupt normal functioning of day to day living. Narcolepsy is a chronic condition which may not be cured.  A good support system from family, friends, teachers and employers is the key to the success of its treatment.

Narcolepsy Symptoms

Symptoms may be observed as early as between ages 10 years to 25 years where excessive drowsiness may cause sudden attacks of sleep anytime and anywhere, characterized by short spans of sleep from a few minutes to half an hour or more. Some individuals may exhibit cataplexy or the sudden loss of tone of muscles, slurred speech or weakness of muscles. Some may hallucinate while awake or at sleep, clinically known as hypnagogic hallucinations and hypnopompic hallucinations respectively.

Treatment Options

The following medications may be used to treat narcolepsy.

Stimulants – Drugs like Modafinil and Armodafinil are Central Nervous System stimulants which keep narcoleptics awake without addictive side effects.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) or Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRI) – Doctors prescribe these to control symptoms of cataplexy, hypnogogic hallucinations, and sleep paralysis.

Tricyclic Anti-depressants – Anti-depressants like Imipramine and Protriptyline may be effective for narcoleptics with catplexy.

Sodium Oxybate – This helps improve night time sleep which is often poor in people who have narcolepsy. High doses may be given to retard day time sleepiness.

Outcome

Outcomes in narcolepsy depend initially whether the condition is diagnosed properly. The use of centrally acting agents for narcolepsy offers promising results in many cases. The attacks of cataplexy may also be controlled by the right tri-cyclic antidepressants if taken regularly. Narcolepsy should be recognized as a lifelong disease in all its cases; thus no cure is expected. Instead, the focus is on management of the disease.

It is important to recognize that medications and medical procedures are associated with benefits and risks that should be discussed with your physician. It is important to recognize that all information contained on this website cannot be considered to be specific medical diagnosis, medical treatment, or medical advice. As always, you should consult with a physician regarding any medical condition. Your Health Access disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.