Narcolepsy Diagnosis

In Kenya, diagnosis is normally done by undergoing Electroencephalography (EEG) which monitors brain waves, a specialist will analyse your test results to determine whether you have normal brain wave activity, breathing patterns, and muscle and eye movement. Read more about EEG

Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) is often the first symptom to appear, and, for some, the primary symptom of narcolepsy. However, EDS is also a symptom of various other medical conditions.

Cataplexy, on the other hand, is unique to narcolepsy. The combination of EDS and cataplexy allow for a clinical diagnosis of narcolepsy. Even when cataplexy is present, laboratory tests may still be needed to confirm diagnosis and determine a treatment plan.

Abroad, the usual diagnostic procedure includes an overnight polysomnogram (PSG or sleep study) to rule out other causes of EDS and to determine the presence of unusual REM patterns. This is followed by the Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT), or daytime nap test, which measures rapidity of sleep onset and how quickly REM sleep follows. The MSLT is the most widely accepted diagnostic test for narcolepsy.

In addition, a genetic blood test has been developed which measures certain antigens often found in people who have a predisposition to narcolepsy. Positive results suggest a predisposition, but do not prove the presence of narcolepsy. This test is sometimes used when the diagnosis is in question.

A new test is currently in use at a limited number of research facilities, which measures the level of hypocretin in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The absence of detectable hypocretins can confirm the presence of narcolepsy/ cataplexy, but normal levels of hypocretin cannot rule out the disorder.