Narcolepsy is a neurological disease that is chronic in nature and it disturbs the normal sleep and wake cycle controlled by the brain. In this disease, the patient feels sleepy throughout the day even after sleeping enough at night. Sometimes, the patient may experience a sudden loss of muscle tone this is called cataplexy. In cataplexy, the consciousness is retained but the muscle tone is lost so that the patient is unable to use any voluntary muscles. Due to narcolepsy, the patient cannot focus on work or other daily activities because of excessive daytime sleepiness.(1)
What Is The Life Expectancy Of Someone With Narcolepsy?
The life expectancy of someone with narcolepsy can be determined by the doctor. According to a study, it was concluded that a person with narcolepsy has almost 1.5 times more chances of mortality than a normal person. But unfortunately, the reason for mortality amongst narcoleptics is yet not known.
Narcolepsy is a rare disorder and it is said to affect nearly 26 to 50 persons per 100,000 people in the whole world. Few cases are left undiagnosed due to the rarity of this disease and a few cases are misdiagnosed as some other psychiatric illnesses by the doctors. The first symptoms of narcolepsy are seen usually in the period of late adolescence or during early adulthood. People with narcolepsy are more prone to face road traffic accidents as compared to normal people. Psychiatric disorders like anxiety, depression, etc. are common amongst people who suffer from narcolepsy. Almost 25% of people who have narcolepsy also have sleep apnea and almost 15% of those who suffer from narcolepsy have restless legs syndrome. Other comorbidities like chronic aches and pains, hypertension, etc. are also common in people with narcolepsy.
Narcolepsy is equally common in both the genders. There are two types of narcolepsy i.e. type 1 narcolepsy and type 2 narcolepsy. In type 1 narcolepsy, there is a low level of hypocretin in the brain or there is the presence of cataplexy. The patient also experiences excess daytime sleepiness. In type 2 the patient does suffer from daytime sleepiness but he/she does not experience a sudden loss of muscle tone. The symptoms of narcolepsy are less severe and the level of hypocretin neuropeptide in the brain is within the normal range in type 2-narcolepsy. Earlier, type 1-narcolepsy was also known as narcolepsy with cataplexy and type 2-narcolepsy was also known as narcolepsy without cataplexy. There is a condition called secondary narcolepsy. In this condition, the hypothalamus gets injured due to some reason.
Hypothalamus is a region in the brain that helps in the regulation of sleep. In secondary narcolepsy, the patient experiences serious neurological problems too. The patient sleeps for more than 10 hours at night and even then feels sleepy throughout the day.(2), (1)
Symptoms Of Narcolepsy
Extreme Daytime Sleepiness. Excessive daytime sleepiness is the primary and the most common symptom of narcolepsy. The patient feels tired and sleepy even after having 8 hours of sleep at night. The extent of sleepiness keeps on varying throughout the day. The patient cannot control sleepiness even after trying. The patient takes nap for one or two hours and then feels fresh and alert for a couple of hours after which sleepiness returns.
Sleep Paralysis. Sleep paralysis is a temporary condition in which the patient is unable to move his/her body and feel like a paralyzed person for some time. This occurs at the extremes of sleep i.e. while falling asleep or while waking up. This condition persists for several minutes or seconds and then goes away on its own. The patient panics when this happens and gets frightened. There is no issue of breathing difficulty when sleep paralysis occurs. Some of the times, sleep paralysis may be accompanied by hallucinations which might be really upsetting for the patient.
Hallucinations. While falling asleep, the patient experiences vivid hallucinations that are frightening. The hallucinations might feel very realistic and this causes panic attacks among patients. One example of hallucination is that the patient might feel like someone is there in his/her room.(3)
It has been found that people with narcolepsy have increased mortality as compared to the normal population. Studies have been conducted that suggest that people with narcolepsy have a little short life span than non-narcoleptic patients. The exact reason for this is not known yet. The patients with narcolepsy have 1.5 times higher chances of mortality as compared to the general population.
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- What Happens To Untreated Narcolepsy?
- Is There A Surgery For Narcolepsy?
- How To Catch Narcolepsy In The Initial Stages?
- What To Eat And Avoid When You Have Narcolepsy?