Are You at Risk for Narcolepsy?

If you’re struggling with overwhelming daytime sleepiness or sudden sleep attacks, you may have narcolepsy, and our experts at Premier Neurology Medical Group will find out why. Our neurology specialist, Dr. Ravinder Singh, provides evaluation and personalized treatment for a full range of sleep disorders and conditions that affect the nervous system.

What is narcolepsy?

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that affects 1 in every 2,000 Americans. It’s estimated that 75% of people with narcolepsy remain undiagnosed. Recognizing the signs and symptoms can put you on the path to proper diagnosis and treatment.

A combination of genetic predisposition and other factors increase the risk of narcolepsy. While there’s no way to reduce your risk of narcolepsy, familiarizing yourself with the symptoms can alert you to a potential problem so you can seek appropriate medical evaluation.

Narcolepsy causes:

While all patients with narcolepsy experience excessive daytime sleepiness or sudden sleep attacks, you may or may not have other symptoms.

Some experts think narcolepsy may involve an autoimmune response. The body’s immune system may attack parts of the brain that produce key proteins that regulate sleep and arousal, among other things. 

Risk factors for narcolepsy

Most people with narcolepsy produce antibodies to proteins that play a key role in sleep and arousal. This makes the brain less able to regulate sleep. 

Risk factors for narcolepsy include having a family history of the problem, an autoimmune disease, or a history of head trauma.

Family history

Narcolepsy and autoimmune diseases in general tend to run in families. Having a close family member diagnosed with narcolepsy increases your risk of developing this sleep disorder. Having a genetic predisposition means that you’re at a higher risk due to an inherited variation in certain genes.

Existing autoimmune disease

Autoimmune diseases are common, and having one autoimmune disease raises the chances of developing another. The same is true with narcolepsy. People with one or more autoimmune diseases are at a greater risk of developing narcolepsy. 

Other autoimmune diseases include:

Head trauma

An injury to the head raises the risk of narcolepsy. Damage to the part of the brain that produces certain proteins can sometimes result in narcolepsy. The same is true for brain tumors and inflammation of the brain. Under these circumstances the brain may be unable to properly regulate sleep.

It’s important to know that having any of the above risk factors does not mean that you’re destined to have a sleep disorder. Discuss your symptoms and risk factors with Dr. Singh. Effective testing can get to the root of the problem.

Recognizing the symptoms of narcolepsy

It’s wise to see us if you have any problems with sleep or wakefulness. Symptoms of narcolepsy usually begin between the ages of 10 and 25 but can occur at any time. Not everyone with narcolepsy loses complete control of their muscles or experiences severe sleep attacks. 

Subtle signs of narcolepsy include an inability to sleep through the night, dreaming immediately upon falling asleep, and an inability to move at the start of sleep or immediately upon waking (sleep paralysis). People with narcolepsy may also feel mentally foggy during the day and have trouble feeling alert.

While there is no cure for narcolepsy, we can prescribe medication and behavioral treatment that can improve your symptoms and help you lead a normal life. For more information call our office in Beverly Hills, California, to schedule your appointment or use our convenient online booking form.

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