What is Narcolepsy?
Narcolepsy is a health conditions wherein a person feels sleepy throughout the day. Sleep disorders can result from any of three basic reasons. These are:
- Insufficient or poor sleep: An ideal example of this is the people suffering from sleep apnea. This problem can be sorted out if the patient’s sleep-related breathing issues are taken care of.
- Weakened Brain System: This is also one of the reasons that can keep any person awake. A perfect example of this is Narcolepsy. In this situation, an individual feels very sleepy throughout the day even after having a good sleep at night.
- A mixed condition: The condition of Narcolepsy usually develops in a person in his or her earlier childhood or teen years and eventually, with growing age and weight, it takes the form of sleep apnea, adding to the existing problems of the condition.
It is important to note that if a person is suffering from both the critical conditions and the treatment is applied on only one such as sleep apnea and not on the other, it can lead to disastrous results.
Treating sleep apnea may improve the health conditions of the patient but cannot eradicate the problem from its root. Cardiac and stroke related dangers can be alleviated but the untreated narcolepsy will make them fall asleep anyway, paving way for other complications. There can be more than one reason and symptom to any kind of sleep disorder. Hence, it’s essential to offer proper and wholesome treatment to the patient.
As mentioned earlier, Narcolepsy causes brain-related sleepiness in a person. In addition, it is also associated with REM sleep disorders. REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep disorder in a person occurs immediately after he or she falls asleep. This disorder can be caused by hypnopompic hallucinations and hypnagogic. The hypnopompic hallucinations and hypnagogic is the occurrence of the fragments of dreams before or after the sleep. Another cause of REM sleep can be sleep paralysis or a situation where a person finds himself or herself unable to call out or even move his or her body while sleeping or waking up. Cataplexy as well as dreaming during short sleep can also cause REM sleep disorders. Cataplexy is a medical condition under which the patient feels weakness in his muscles due to any kind of emotional impact, such as laughter.
Patients suffering from cataplexy typically always also have Narcolepsy, but patients having Narcolepsy might not always experience cataplexy.
Who can suffer From Narcolepsy?
Both males and females can suffer from Narcolepsy. The main symptom of this disease is sleepiness, which usually takes place in latter part of the childhood, teen years or beginning of 20s. Narcolepsy can also develop in the individuals who are 30 years of age, but, this is very rare.
Symptoms of Narcolepsy
The symptoms of narcolepsy are falling asleep at a frequent rate, hyperactive behavioural pattern, and even other conditions such as Cataplexy.
Causes of Narcolepsy:
This disease is caused if the chemical “neurotransmitters” is found to be missing in the brain cells. Neurotransmitters controls and supervises the communication link between different brain cells and nerve.
Some members in a family can be genetically prone to developing Narcolepsy. However, this is not considered to be a purely genetic ailment in people. Narcolepsy may sometime result from excessive stress, but, as with the instances of genetic causes, this is not strictly a psychological disorder.
How to diagnose Narcolepsy
In order to diagnose Narcolepsy, some careful steps need to be taken. The patient’s history should be carefully observed. His or her sleeping habits should be closely monitored, and a multiple sleep latency test should be conducted. Other than this, the cataplexy disorder should also be taken into consideration.
Is a Narcolepsy blood test helpful?
Narcolepsy cannot be conclusively diagnosed by blood test. However, there are some medical practitioners that believe that blood test can help diagnose this medical condition in a patient. They think that individuals suffering from Narcolepsy have specific HLA types. HLA types are genetically ascertained signs on white blood cells that help in finding out tissue compatibility-for instance, to check an individual’s willingness to donate a kidney to the one whose system may not accept the kidney that has been transplanted. HLA types are determined by a blood test. However, these tests cannot be used for diagnosing narcolepsy because of two reasons: 1) the test will be in negative for the patients who are suffering from narcolepsy as well as cataplexy, and 2) about 25% of the people have same HLA types that are related to Narcolepsy.
How to cure Narcolepsy?
Narcolepsy can be treated if proper medication as well as a bit of common sense is applied. A Narcoleptic patient cannot be treated solely on the basis of medication. The treatment should be designed according to each individual case in concern. In this process, it is important to remove all the aggravating elements that can cause the symptoms to grow more serious, and cause the suggested medications to become less useful.
To elucidate it further, the practitioner cannot recommend a diabetic to do anything whatever he or she feels like because insulin shots are being given. Prescribing medication also means that the patient should be given a proper diet chart and counselled as and when required. This is applicable in case of all types of ailments including Narcolepsy.
Also, the medical practitioner who is treating the individual with Narcolepsy symptoms should possess experience and expertise in handling these types of cases. Physicians should inform the patient about the things or conditions that can pose further risks to his or her health. Not only this, it’s the duty of the practitioner to educate his patient about the ways to handle this disorder with a positive attitude.
Some of the medications that can be prescribed to a Narcoleptic patient are sodium oxybate (Xyrem) and antidepressants. Sodium oxybate (Xyrem) taken at night. All these are stimulating agents. Since these medications may contain some side-effects, physician should prescribe them with utmost care to any individual based on his or her medical records, symptoms, and more.