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Narcolepsy

What is narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a neurologic disorder that causes extreme daytime sleepiness and In some cases of narcolepsy, the patient may experience episodes of uncontrollable muscle weakness known as cataplexy or episodes of paralysis upon awakening known as sleep paralysis. For those suffering from narcolepsy, daytime sleepiness is caused by the brain’s inability to control normal sleep/wake cycles resulting in uncontrollable sleepiness that interfere with daily functioning. Driving with untreated narcolepsy is particularly dangerous due to the risk of sudden muscle weakness or urge to sleep. There is sometimes a genetic component, but most patients have no family history of the problem.

How is narcolepsy diagnosed?

Narcolepsy can be difficult to diagnose, and a thorough evaluation by a physician board certified in sleep medicine is recommended for patients exhibiting symptoms of narcolepsy. Symptoms of narcolepsy often begin in adolescence, and can often be dismissed or attributed to lifestyle or poor sleep habits. For this reason, patients often go undiagnosed for many years.

For proper diagnosis, an overnight sleep study should be performed to evaluate quality of sleep and rule out other causes of daytime sleepiness, such as sleep apnea. Following the overnight sleep study, a multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) should be performed to assess the patient’s level of daytime sleepiness after a full night’s sleep. The MSLT involves a series of brief nap trials performed throughout the day. The daytime MSLT should only be performed when other sleep disorders have been ruled out by the preceding overnight sleep study, or when daytime sleepiness remains after sleep apnea has been adequately treated.

How is narcolepsy treated?

A board-certified sleep specialist will carefully evaluate sleep study results, medical history, medications, and symptoms in order to accurately diagnose and treat narcolepsy. This disorder is typically treated through lifestyle changes and medications.

Daytime sleepiness related to narcolepsy can be debilitating for the sufferer and should be treated carefully. Patients may need to try different medications under the supervision of an experienced sleep specialist to find what type of treatment works best for them.

If you are suffering from a sleep disorder, ask to be referred to UT Health East Texas by your physician or call 903-531-8079 to begin the referral process.

Providers For Narcolepsy

Rodolfo Amaro Galvez, MD
Pulmonology (Lung Disease) - Pediatric, Sleep Medicine

David Jones, MD, FCCP, DABSM
Pulmonology (Lung Disease), Critical Care Medicine, Sleep Medicine

Ketan Patel, MBBS, MD, FCCP
Pulmonology (Lung Disease), Critical Care Medicine, Sleep Medicine

Carla Wang-Kocik, MD
Pulmonology (Lung Disease), Critical Care Medicine, Sleep Medicine