Have you ever had a laughing fit so bad that you almost passed out? Are you one of the people who gets excited or startled easily? Well imagine that the same thing happened to you but with a minimal laugh or a slight feeling of fear or fright. It sure would be a problem right? That is exactly what happens to people who suffer from a disease called cataplexy. We talk about it today because it can also appear cataplexy in children. We will help you identify and understand it easily and very quickly.
Cataplexy seems like a fairy tale or cartoon disease, but nothing could be further from the truth. The so-called disease of emotions or laughter that faints is a real problem that hundreds of people live in their day to day.
In cataplexy, there are sudden episodes of loss of muscle strength that can affect part or all of the body.These episodes cannot be predicted in any way because they do not give previous signals. They can only be suspected by the factors that trigger them.
The cataplexy attacks They can appear at any time of the day and in any place, regardless of the activity that is being carried out and, therefore, in adults for example, it can be a serious risk if it appears while driving. Although the duration is usually very short, they can appear repeatedly in the form of salvoes and may even cause the person to fall to the ground even if they do not lose consciousness.
The episodes are usually related to emotionally intense stimuli, whether negative or positive. Some examples of cataplexy triggering stimuli are:
- Positive stimuli such as joy, laughter or emotion.
- Negative stimuli, such as fear, fright or startle.
There is still no definitive confirmation about the intrinsic mechanisms causing cataplexy, but there are different neurobiological theories to explain it.
This disease seems to be related to the alteration of the regulation of a brain substance called orexin or hypocretin, which is responsible for controlling normal sleep processes.
Orexin is one of the most important substances in the regulation of sleep and wakefulness processes. That is, sleep and wake up. Likewise, it plays a very important role in our ability to maintain alertness during the day, as well as aspects of the stability of deep sleep cycles.
When hypocretin levels decrease for any reason, symptoms of cataplexy or narcolepsy can appear almost on par. In fact, this situation is associated with the sudden inactivation of the motor neurons of the spinal cord that, in the end, triggers the lack of muscle tone suffered by patients.
In all this process, there is usually a genetic predisposition in which the structure of the proteins encoded by the genes responsible for the metabolic cascades of these processes at the brain level, is altered and, therefore, its functioning is not correct.
Cataplexy more than a disease can be considered in a more general way, a symptom associated with other diseases. In fact, cataplexy can appear in two ways:
- As an independent disease
In this case, only episodes of weakness appear without any other different symptoms. To reach the diagnosis of cataplexy as a disease, it is essential to rule out the existence of any other added symptoms that may be suggestive of another major problem.
Likewise, it is necessary to carry out complementary tests such as an MRI or an electroencephalogram to rule out the existence of lesions of the central nervous system or epileptic alterations.
- As a symptom of other diseases
In this case, the cataplexy will appear together with other symptoms typical of the other disease that will allow a specific etiological diagnosis to be reached. The diseases most commonly associated with cataplexy symptoms are the following:
- Narcolepsy. It is a nervous system problem that causes extreme drowsiness and sleep attacks during the day that cannot be controlled.
- Niemann-Pick disease type C. It is a serious degenerative metabolic disease that causes significant developmental delay in children and is associated with severe disability and dependence in many cases.
- Anti-Ma2 paraneoplastic encephalitis. It is an abnormal response that our own body causes in the presence of a tumor. It is sometimes associated with an immune disorder, but in many cases the triggering mechanism is not known.
He diagnosis of cataplexy in children is more complex than in adults due to the lack of suspicion that may exist as it is rare in childhood. In addition, its knowledge is essential as well as maintaining a high level of alert to suggestive symptoms to include it in the differential diagnosis of many other neuro-pediatric pathologies. The truth is that cataplexy can be confused with other problems such as:
- Psychological pathology
- Anxiety or panic attack
- Functional pathology
In one way or another, the diagnosis is clinical and the tests are carried out in order to rule out other causing problems. Precisely for this reason, a complete study with at least the following data would be necessary: general analysis with a complete profile, brain MRI, electroencephalogram, abdominal ultrasound and echocardiography and / or Holter.
Either as a symptom or as a disease with its own entity, cataplexy can have a significant impact on a person's life and especially, in the most susceptible such as children.
Given the existence of a condition of cataplexy in children and once all the pertinent studies have been carried out, it is essential to propose as soon as possible the establishment of a treatment that allows controlling or at least minimizing the episodes and with them, their associated risks.
Most of the risks associated with cataplexy attacks derive either directly from the possible trauma suffered in the fall itself triggered or, conversely, from the secondary risk of unprotected exposure after the attack.
In one way or another, cataplexy treatment may include different lines, that include both the pharmacological and psychological areas, through modifications of vital habits: changes in life habits, pharmacological treatment and psychological treatment.
Inside of the Pharmacotherapy Medications from several groups include stimulant drugs (such as methylphenidate or lisdexamfetamine, which are common drugs in the treatment of conditions such as ADHD), antidepressant drugs (such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The best known example is paroxetin ) or sodium oxybate, which has also shown efficacy in reducing the frequency and intensity of cataplexy episodes.
To improve symptoms, it is essential keep a stable sleep and of quality due to the beneficial effects on the homeostasis of our organism. It is also a great help to carry out moderate and aerobic physical exercise on a regular basis because it favors a more efficient functioning of many mental regulation mechanisms by increasing blood and oxygen supplies to the brain. And finally, take care of your diet and avoid the consumption of toxins such as alcohol and tobacco or drugs, which have a negative impact by altering normal brain function.
From the psychological point of view, the fundamental objective is to avoid negative emotional repercussions, promote socialization and globally, the best possible quality of life in children with cataplexy.
You can read more articles similar to Cataplexy in children. The disease of emotions, in the category of Children's Diseases on site.