Though there are close to 200,000 adults in the US who suffers from an illness called narcolepsy not many are fully aware of why it strikes or for that matter what narcolepsy treatments entail.
Everyone wants to come out of a disease condition as fast as possible. Getting cured of narcolepsy also involves the same kind of rush. This is because not many know that this is by far an untreatable condition that responds extremely poorly to any kind of therapy. What the doctors can ultimately achieve is to provide symptomatic relief to the patient with the help of drugs as well as lifestyle changes and some effective self-help techniques.
What is this disorder all about?
Basic information about narcolepsy
Arising mainly out of neurological dysfunction, the most significant sign of the onset of narcolepsy sleep disorder is excessive daytime sleepiness. This happens due to the brain’s incapacity to monitor normal sleep-wake cycles.
Indicative features of the disorder
A patient of narcolepsy not only suffers from excessive daytime sleepiness but also has disturbed sleep spoiled further by frequent waking. The typical age of onset is between 15 and 30 and the condition remains a lifelong companion.
The disorder has four typical features, but only one-fourth of patients report experiencing all the four:
– The most distinctive feature of this disorder is excessive daytime sleepiness. 90% patients report experiencing this feature of the illness.
– Cataplexy attacks make the victim incapable of holding on to any object; get weak on the knees, dropping of jaw, etc.
– Sleep paralysis is yet another manifestation of this disorder that disables a patient from talking or moving just after waking or while going to sleep.
– Hallucinations are vivid dreams or nightmares that a narcoleptic would experience.
How the disorder can be misdiagnosed
Excessive daytime sleepiness is one of the common hallmarks of narcolepsy as well as several types of sleep disorders resulting in misdiagnosis and confusion. For example, it is common with patients of sleep apnea, though it is a secondary symptom and the disorder sets in later in life, when the patient is 40 and above. On the other hand, narcolepsy sets in earlier.
Primary Hypersomnia is another sleep disorder that shares the same feature. The only difference is that unlike narcolepsy, this disorder does not result in sudden sleep attacks.
What could be the likely causes?
Though the exact reasons for its onset are not clear, some triggering factors include Hypocretin deficiency, genetic factors, dysfunctional central nervous system, rheumatoid arthritis etc.
Are medications enough for treating this disorder?
Increasing daytime alertness is not the sole aim of doctors treating narcolepsy. Therapy involves going beyond and improving the quality of life for the patient by reducing various manifestations of the illness. Counseling of family and friends, self-help and lifestyle alterations are some of the initiatives taken by the doctor to achieve this goal.
Narcolepsy treatments involving self-help strategies include lifestyle changes like maintaining strict sleep schedules, relaxation exercises, improving sleep hygiene, planned short daytime naps, stress reduction, weight loss, etc.
Marc MacDonald is a health researcher on excessive daytime sleepiness, snoring, and sleep apnea, among others. To discover more helpful details on this article’s subject, visit his what is narcolepsy website.