Jennifer Gudeman, PharmD, Vice President of Medical and Clinical Affairs at Avadel Pharmaceuticals, describes how narcolepsy is diagnosed and why it often takes so long to get a proper diagnosis.

Narcolepsy is a rare neurological disorder characterized by excessive sleepiness during the day, often with periods of brief involuntary sleep and/or cataplexy. There are two subtypes of narcolepsy: type 1 narcolepsy in which the person experiences episodes of cataplexy and type 2 narcolepsy in which they do not experience cataplexy. 

As Dr. Gudeman explains, it can take 8-15 years from onset of symptoms before narcolepsy is properly diagnosed. One potential reason for this is that fatigue, the cardinal symptom of narcolepsy, is often dismissed by general practitioners who are usually the first to see the patient. 

Narcolepsy may be preliminarily diagnosed based on excessive daytime sleepiness, abnormal REM sleep phenomena (such as cataplexy), and/or disturbed nocturnal sleep. However, formal diagnosis requires an in-depth sleep analysis by sleep specialists. 

To learn more about narcolepsy and other rare neurological conditions, go to checkrare.com/diseases/neurology