Narcolepsy: treatment, signs, tests, causes

Narcolepsy is a rather rare neurological disorder to which both men and women are equally susceptible and which is characterized by sleep disturbance and a tendency to fall asleep whenever a person is in a relaxing environment. Obviously, such a condition is quite dangerous and life-threatening and needs to be handled properly with the assistance of a dedicated and experienced neurologist who can offer a smart narcolepsy treatment to mitigate all risks.

The exact narcolepsy causes have not been identified yet. However, once your immune system wrongly attacks your brain parts that are responsible for releasing a chemical, known as orexin, you will suffer due to the condition, as your sleep will be poorly regulated. There is also an array of triggers contributing to the development of the disorder:

  • hereditary factor;
  • traumatic brain injury;
  • infections;
  • hormonal changes;
  • stress, severe anxiety, and strong emotional strain.

Narcolepsy attacks can occur at any time. The number of episodes and their duration during the day can vary considerably. The patient’s ability to resist falling asleep is very limited and the attack is accompanied by the inability to easily move, although waking up such a person should not be more difficult than during normal sleep. Instant episodes are more likely to occur in monotonous surroundings, however, they can happen even in an environment that requires increased attention, for example, while driving a car or talking.

Common symptoms of narcolepsy which every patient must be aware of

Patients may have sudden, recurring attacks of sleep without any alarming signs that could notify them about the upcoming episode. Night sleep can also be deteriorated and unsatisfactory due to frequent awakenings and interrupted by vivid and even frightening dreams. Apart from increased daytime sleepiness, sudden falling asleep, disturbances in night sleep, symptoms of narcolepsy may include weakness of muscles and sudden physical collapse due to strong emotions, known as cataplexy, hallucinations, sleep paralysis (inability to move for a few minutes after waking up).

Rarer signs are difficulty with concentrating and clouding of consciousness, a lack of energy and enthusiasm, and troubles with completing tasks or maintaining a work rhythm. The consequences of this are low work capacity and productivity, poor focus, a lack of motivation, depression, a significant decrease in the quality of life, and an increased risk of injury (especially due to road traffic accidents). 

Luckily, if treated competently with the assistance of committed and passionate health care specialists, your quality of life can be repaired and improved as soon as you start therapy and comprehensive narcolepsy treatment.

How the condition can be detected

The doctor will review the medical history and conduct a physical examination. Blood tests can detect changes in hormone levels and organ dysfunction that can also provoke the condition. Learning medications that a patient takes can help figure out if uncontrolled sleepiness is a side effect of any of them. Specific studies of sleep patterns may include talking to the patient’s family, completing the symptom assessment questionnaire, and keeping a diary to track sleep habits. Also, a sleep disorder diagnostic tool can be applied to measure your sleep latency.When it comes to treatment, it is crucial to understand that only correctly selected medications and lifestyle correction can improve sleep. Drugs to combat sleepiness during daytime, a sleep-inducing drug to normalize night sleep, or antidepressants to eliminate such health consequences as cataplexy can be prescribed. Since strict sleep hygiene is pivotal, a doctor will suggest practices that are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis. Narcolepsy is a nuisance problem, but with adequate care assistance and narcolepsy treatment, it can be easily managed.

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