Cataplexy is the sudden loss of voluntary muscle tone or temporary paralysis that is often triggered by extreme emotion, such as laughter or fear. Most episodes are short in duration, lasting a few seconds up to five minutes. These episodes tend to have few, if any, residual effects. Some people with narcolepsy can have cataplectic attacks almost daily, while there are some people with narcolepsy that have never experienced cataplexy.
During a cataplectic attack the person will remain conscious; however, the person may experience jaw dropping, which can cause speech limitations, or eyelids drooping, which can interfere with vision. Other symptoms may include balance issues, upper extremity weakness, and/or collapsing.
While a cataplectic attack is usually very short in duration and leaves no residual effects, there may be symptoms that would require workplace accommodations. Some of the most common limitations stemming from a cataplectic attack are weakened speech, vision issues, trouble balancing, upper extremity weakness, and/or collapsing.
Accommodating Employees with Cataplexy
People with cataplexy may develop some of the limitations, but seldom develop all of them. Also, the degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with cataplexy will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. The following articles provide additional information and accommodation solutions.
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