Drowsiness during the day, muscle spasms and weight gain, which can lead to obesity, are one of them "characteristic" symptoms of narcolepsy and can help you identify it. It is an autoimmune disease that is still mysterious because its causes are unknown and it is very difficult to recognize them.
It can be confused even with epilepsy or depression, so a correct diagnosis can reach up to ten years after the first symptoms appear. It has a significant social and personal impact on the patient.
Narcolepsy can be defined as "a sleep disorders, chronic and neurological disorders with altered regulation and characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and abnormal REM sleep symptoms. "It is a rare disease because of its low frequency: 20-30 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
Top-level specialists have one more tool to diagnose narcolepsy: connections "red flags"(red flags), or alarm mechanisms identified by scientists.
Giuseppe Plazzi, professor of neurology at the University of Bologna and president Italian Association of Sleep Medicinehe explained that "this is a rare disease in which cells that are incorrectly produced by their own immune system destroy the necessary neurons to maintain an active waking state."
The researcher explained that this condition does not reduce the life expectancy or cause other neurodegenerative pathologies, but it does not disappear and can be treated with symptomatic drugs. "The great novelty in this field is the ability to replace the substance lost in the brain synthesis," he explained.
The symptoms are simple and common in other pathological conditions. That's why narcolepsy can be identified very late, with sometimes complex effects: learning disabilities, the possibility of accidents and errors that can also cause job loss and social relationships.
"It manifests itself especially in children and adolescents and affects both men and women"Plazzi said that" long diagnostic times have enormous consequences, because you live for 10 or 14 years, not knowing what you have, you live in frustration. "This is the moment the intervention" red flags ", a new tool for rapid diagnosis of the disease." For the first time we find out who they are and where they are sick, we will find out where and how to intervene, "he said.