What're the complications of narcolepsy?
Narcolepsy is a life-long problem but it is not progressive. Symptoms may even lessen over time but they never completely disappear. Sleep disturbances at night often worsen as a person ages. Narcolepsy may cause you to experience serious problems in both your professional and personal lives. Others may perceive your undiagnosed condition as lazy, lethargic
or rude. Your performance may suffer at school or work.
Narcolepsy often affects intimate relationships. Extreme sleepiness may cause low sex drive or impotence, and people with narcolepsy may even fall asleep while making love. The problems caused by sexual dysfunction may be further complicated by emotional difficulties. Intense feelings, such as anger or joy, can trigger some signs of narcolepsy, causing affected people to withdraw from emotional interactions.
The patient suffers emotional and social difficulties from the uncontrollable sleep episodes and cataplexy. Studies of depression in people with narcolepsy estimated its prevalence to be between 30% and 57%. (In the general population, prevalence of depression is 8%.) Studies have shown severe emotional and social dysfunction in all areas, including work, relationships, and leisure activities. One study reported that 25% of men with narcolepsy suffered sexual problems. Some experts believe that the psychological and social effects are more serious than those caused by epilepsy (which narcolepsy can be mistaken for).
Narcolepsy patients are also prone to accidents. Sleep attacks may result in physical harm to people with narcolepsy. Almost 75% of narcoleptic patients reported falling asleep while driving in one survey and 56% reported near accidents. Other common narcolepsy-related accidents include burns from touching hot objects, cuts from sharp objects, and breaking things.
In one study, 81% of narcolepsy patients had headaches, with 57% of them reporting migraines. Some research has reported that people with narcolepsy are at high risk for obesity compared to the general population, which could be a consequence of low activity level. One study also observed that relatives of people with narcolepsy also had a higher incidence of greater weight, suggesting that there may be some genetic association between obesity and narcolepsy.