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Cataplexy is a sudden, temporary loss of muscle control in a person with narcolepsy. An attack of
cataplexy usually is triggered by strong emotional reactions
such as laughter, excitement, surprise, or anger. Factors that contribute to the attacks of cataplexy
include physical fatigue, stress, and sleepiness.
Severe attacks of cataplexy may
result in a complete physical collapse with a fall to the ground and risk of injury. Milder forms of cataplexy are more common.
These involve regional muscle groups
and result in symptoms such as a drooping head, sagging jaw, slurred speech, buckling of the knees, or weakness in the arms. This muscle weakness can be quite
subtle. The patient is conscious but usually unable to
Cataplectic attacks may last from a few seconds to several minutes. They may vary from a few per year to numerous attacks per day that could disable
Cataplexy is present in nearly 75% of patients with narcolepsy, according to the National Institutes of Health. The onset of cataplexy may coincide
with the onset
of excessive daytime sleepiness, but cataplexy often develops years later, so the absence of cataplexy should not rule out the diagnosis of
Other symptoms may seem unrelated, but may accompany cataplexy. A study in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine also found that nearly
patients with narcolepsy/cataplexy reported binge eating at least twice a week.