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Is Narcolepsy Diagnosed the Same Way in Children, Teens, and Adults?

The same diagnostic process and criteria for narcolepsy are used for children, teens, and adults. That said, there may be special considerations when evaluating younger patients:

  • EDS in children may manifest as irritability or hyperactivity, which can cause narcolepsy to be misdiagnosed as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or another behavior disorder.

  • Cataplexy may begin with more subtle movements in children, including many that only involve the face. These may be overlooked entirely or misidentified as facial tics.

  • Involving parents in the diagnostic process is often essential, especially for younger children who may struggle to recount their sleep habits or verbalize symptoms like sleep paralysis or hallucinations.

  • The MLST has not been specifically validated for young people, and some adolescents with narcolepsy may have normal results on initial testing.

What Questions Can You Ask Your Doctor About Narcolepsy?

If you’re planning to talk with your doctor about narcolepsy, being ready for your appointment helps. Be prepared to carefully describe your symptoms and how long you’ve had them. You may also benefit from bringing a list of questions. Examples of potential questions include:

  • Are my symptoms consistent with narcolepsy?

  • What else could be causing my symptoms?

  • What tests do you recommend to determine the cause of my symptoms?

  • Are there any special instructions to prepare for the tests that you recommend?

  • When will the results of those tests be available?

  • Are there any steps that I can take to improve my symptoms in the meantime?

  • Would it be beneficial to have an appointment with a sleep specialist or another type of medical specialist?

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