Queen of Sleep

Living with narcolepsy: a personal journey

Cataplexy

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Cataplexy (The term cataplexy originates from the Greek “kata”, meaning down, and plexis, meaning a stroke or seizure) is an episode of muscular weakness triggered by strong    emotions such as laughter, anger and surprise. The loss of muscle tone    ranges from a just-perceptible weakening of the facial muscles through    weakness at the knees, to total collapse on the floor. Speech is    slurred, eyesight impaired (double vision, inability to focus) but    hearing and awareness remain undisturbed. Attacks often last less than 2    minutes, and they may only last a few seconds.    Some people have repeated attacks of cataplexy which persist for up to    30 minutes. During both mild and  severe attacks, the person stays fully conscious. Cataplexy may be most severe when the subject is tired rather than    fully alert and can lead to considerable anxiety although anxiety itself    is not a trigger. It is thought that about 70-75% of patients with    narcolepsy have cataplexy.
Essentially, cataplexy is a symptom almost exclusively found in narcolepsy and thus    the presence of it makes diagnosis of narcolepsy much more certain.
There has been considerable debate about whether narcolepsy without  cataplexy really is ‘proper’ narcolepsy. Recently the International    Classification of Sleep Disorders has determined that, indeed,  narcolepsy without cataplexy does exist.
Cataplexy is sometimes confused with epilepsy, where a series of flashes or other stimuli cause superficially similar seizures.

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Written by Queen of Sleep

February 25, 2010 at 2:31 am

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