Narcolepsy

  • Highlights


    Overview:

    • The word narcolepsy comes from two Greek words roughly translated as "seized by numbness."
    • Narcolepsy affects around 1 in 2,000 people.
    • The hallmark symptoms of narcolepsy are excessive daytime sleepiness and temporary and sudden muscle weakness (called cataplexy), usually brought on by strong emotions.
    • Narcolepsy is a neurological sleep disorder. It is not caused by mental illness or psychological problems.
    • Narcolepsy most likely involves a combination of genetics and one or more environmental triggers, such as infection, trauma, immune system problems, or stress.

    Genetic Basis:

    • Nearly 98% of patients with narcolepsy and cataplexy test positive for specific human leukocyte antigen (HLA) subtypes, particularly HLA-DQB1*0602. This antigen is found in just 20% of the general population.

    Risk factors:

    • Narcolepsy symptoms usually first appear in adolescence or young adulthood.
    • Having a family member with narcolepsy presents a 20 to 40 times higher risk of developing the condition compared to the general population.

    Treatment:

    • Lifestyle treatment of narcolepsy includes taking three or more scheduled sleep-times/naps throughout the day.
    • The main drug treatments for narcolepsy are:
      • Modafinil (Provigil) for excessive, uncontrollable, daytime sleepiness
      • Armodafinil (Nuvigil) for excessive, uncontrollable, daytime sleepiness
      • Sodium oxybate (Xyrem) for cataplexy (sudden muscle weakness) for excessive daytime sleepiness