Symptoms Of Narcolepsy
Another classic symptom of narcolepsy is cataplexy. It is also the most dramatic component of the narcolepsy. Cataplexy is the partial or complete loss of bilateral muscle tone in response to strong emotion. Reduced muscle tone may be minimal, occur in a few muscle groups, and cause head drooping, slurred speech, or dropping things from the hand; or it may be so severe that total body paralysis occurs, resulting in complete collapse wherein the person is unable even to open his or her eyes.
People who have cataplexy might collapse into a chair or onto the floor, conscious of everything around them. They are able to see and hear, but unable to move. Just as in REM sleep, the heart and breathing muscles operate normally, as do the muscles in the eyes.
Cataplexy usually occurs in response to some type of heightened emotion, such as anger, fear, or excitement. Positive emotions such as laughter more commonly trigger cataplexy than negative emotions. However, any strong emotion is a potential trigger. Startling stimuli, stress, physical fatigue, or sleepiness may also be important triggers or factors that exacerbate cataplexy.
The person is usually alert and oriented during the event despite the inability to respond during the event. Often, only the legs and/or arms are affected. These episodes normally last from a few seconds, to 2 or 3 minutes, but occasionally continue longer.
Cataplexy is found in 60% to 100% of persons with narcolepsy. The onset of cataplexy is most frequently simultaneous with the onset of excessive daytime sleepiness, but cataplexy may not develop until many years after initial onset of excessive day- time sleepiness.
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