Sleep Home > Narcolepsy

Making a Diagnosis

Diagnosing narcolepsy is relatively easy when all the symptoms are present. But if the sleep attacks are isolated and cataplexy is mild or absent, it is more difficult to diagnose.
 
If a person has possible symptoms, the doctor will do a physical exam and ask about the patient's personal and family medical history. The doctor will also recommend additional tests in order to make a narcolepsy diagnosis.
 
Two tests that are commonly used in diagnosing narcolepsy are the polysomnogram and the multiple sleep latency test.
 
Narcolepsy is not usually diagnosed until 10 to 15 years after the first symptoms appear. This unusually long lag time is due to several factors, including the disorder's subtle onset and the variability of narcolepsy symptoms. Equally important, however, is the fact that the public is largely unfamiliar with narcolepsy, as are many health professionals. When symptoms initially develop, people often do not recognize that they are experiencing the onset of a distinct neurological disorder and thus fail to seek medical treatment.
 
(Click Diagnosing Narcolepsy for more information.)
 

Treating Narcolepsy

Although there is no cure for narcolepsy, treatments are available to help reduce the various symptoms of the disorder.
 
Treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms, and it may take weeks or months to work out an optimal regimen. Complete control of sleepiness and cataplexy is rarely possible. Also, the narcolepsy treatment can be modified as symptoms change.
 
Treatment is primarily with narcolepsy medications, but lifestyle changes are also important (see Coping With Narcolepsy).
 
Depending on the symptoms, common narcolepsy drugs include:
 

 

(Click Narcolepsy Treatment for more information.)

 

Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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