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100 E.15th Ave
Conshohocken, PA   19428
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Narcolepsy is a genetic illness in which a person develops progressive injury or damage to portions of the brain which control wakefullness and alertness. The illness may be caused by an auto-immune disorder in which a person's immune system turns against the person and injures their body. It causes frequent awakenings and insomnia during the night. Patients report very poor quality sleep and feel exhausted in the morning. During the day, the patient experiences brief overwhelming spells of sleepiness which are sudden in onset. The person may fall asleep with little warning, or just experience a profound sleepiness which makes it difficult to perform their usual work. It often starts slowly during teen years or young adulthood but slowly progresses. Most patients are diagnosed in their 40's or 50's after suffering for years. It may be associated with a symptom called Cataplexy. This is a sudden muscle weakness which occurs during the day. It is often triggered by strong emotion like laughter or anger. Then there is a brief period of weakness of face, arms or legs. It may be minor, or cause a person to sit or fall down. It lasts only a few minutes. It is not a stroke. It is recurrent but may only be a few times a year or month. This grouping symptoms in a person, including poor quality sleep, severe sudden daytime sleep spells, and cataplexy, raises the question of possible Narcolepsy. Diagnosis requires both a full night sleep study, and a daytime nap study called an MSLT (Multiple Sleep Latency Time). Treatment consists of medications to improve night time sleep, and day time medication to keep a person alert. Currently there are no medications to keep it from worsening over time.

Recommended Web Sites: 

The National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke National Health Institute

Narcolepsy Network, Inc.
10921 Reed Hartman Hwy. #119
Cincinnati, OH 45242
Tel: 513-891-3522
Fax: 513-891-3836

National Sleep Foundation
1522 K Street NW Suite 500
Washington, DC 20005
Tel: 202-347-3471 (no public calls please)

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHBLI)
National Institutes of Health, DHHS
31 Center Drive, Rm. 4A21 MSC 2480
Bethesda, MD 20892-2480
Tel: 301-592-8573 / 240-629-3255 (TTY)
Recorded Info: 800-575-WELL (-9355)

Stanford University School of Medicine Center for Narcolepsy