Cataplexy

Last Updated: April 27, 2019

Definition - What does Cataplexy mean?

Cataplexy describes a condition in which an individual experiences sudden temporary muscle weakness or paralysis. During an episode of cataplexy, the person is awake but unable to control their muscle function. This loss of control may affect one or several muscles. Often a strong emotional reaction will trigger the cataplexy episode. Because of its sudden onset and connection to strong emotions, cataplexy is sometimes misdiagnosed as a seizure disorder. Cataplexy is uniquely characterized by the fact that the individual sufferer remains fully conscious and aware of his or her environment during an attack.

WorkplaceTesting explains Cataplexy

Cataplexy is a neurological condition usually associated with narcolepsy. Non-narcolepsy related cataplexy is rare. However, the condition is sometimes triggered by other medical conditions including some chromosomal disorders, strokes and head injuries. Anxiety, anger, joy and even laughter can all act as triggers. While the exact cause of cataplexy isn't fully understood, it is believed to be triggered by a malfunction in the sleep/wake cycle. Like narcolepsy, the condition is linked to low levels of the neurotransmitter hypocretin in the brain.

Cataplexy affect voluntary muscle reactions. During the cataplexic attack, the body's muscles are responding as if in a sleep state, while the individual experiencing cataplexy remains awake. Not all instances of cataplexy result in noticeable muscle weakness or paralysis. An episode of cataplexy may have a slight affect, causing a dropping eyelid or small muscle tremor. In other instances, an individual's knees may buckle or he or she may be unable to speak.

Cataplexy cannot be cured but may be managed through the use of medications and behavior changes. Someone suffering from cataplexy should maintain good sleep hygiene. Additionally, sufferers of cataplexy should implement safety practices to prevent injuries from occurring during an cataplexic episode.

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