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Alternative namesDaytime sleep disorder
DefinitionNarcolepsy is a sleep disorder associated with uncontrollable sleepiness and frequent daytime sleeping.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The exact cause of narcolepsy is unknown. Studies have indicated that the disorder may be genetic, with studies showing gene markers that may indicate a tendency to develop narcolepsy. A small group of neurons in the brain has been implicated in producing transitions from sleep to wakefulness and vice-versa, and people with narcolepsy may have fewer of these neurons or they may have been damaged.
The condition may be aggravated by conditions that cause insomnia , such as disruption of work schedules.
There is a brief period of sleep, and the person awakens feeling refreshed. However, he or she may again become uncontrollably sleepy a short time later.
Signs and testsExamination and testing are used to rule out disorders that may cause similar symptoms, including sleepiness that results from seizures , sleep apnea , insomnia , restless leg syndrome , or other sleep disorders .
The diagnosis is confirmed by sleep studies ( polysomnogram ).
Tests to rule out other disorders may include:
There is no known cure for narcolepsy. Treatment is aimed at control of the symptoms.
Antidepressant medications such as imipramine can help to reduce the number of episodes of cataplexy, but they usually do not reduce the number of sleeping episodes.
Expectations (prognosis)Narcolepsy is a chronic , life-long condition. It is not a fatal illness, but it may be dangerous if episodes occur during driving, operating machinery or similar activities. Narcolepsy is usually controllable with treatment. Treating other underlying sleep disorders can improve symptoms of narcolepsy markedly.
Calling your health care providerCall your health care provider if symptoms suggestive of narcolepsy occur.
Call your health care provider if narcolepsy does not respond to treatment, or if other symptoms develop.
PreventionThere is no known prevention for narcolepsy. Treatment may reduce the number of attacks. Avoid situations that aggravate the condition if prone to attacks of narcolepsy.
Update Date: 7/28/2002Elaine T. Kiriakopoulos, M.D., MSc, Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard University, Boston, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT