OBJECTIVE: Narcolepsy is a lifelong disease, manifesting with excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy, arising between childhood and young adulthood. The diagnosis is typically made after a long delay that burdens the disease severity. The aim of the project, promoted by the "Associazione Italiana Narcolettici e Ipersonni" is to develop Red Flags to detect symptoms for early referral, targeting non-sleep medicine specialists, general practitioners, and pediatricians.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: A multidisciplinary panel, including patients, public institutions, and representatives of national scientific societies of specialties possibly involved in the diagnostic process of suspected narcolepsy, was convened. The project was accomplished in three phases. Phase 1: Sleep experts shaped clinical pictures of narcolepsy in pediatric and adult patients. On the basis of these pictures, Red Flags were drafted. Phase 2: Representatives of the scientific societies and patients filled in a form to identify barriers to the diagnosis of narcolepsy. Phase 3: The panel produced suggestions for the implementation of Red Flags.
RESULTS: Red Flags were produced representing three clinical pictures of narcolepsy in pediatric patients ((1) usual sleep symptoms, (2) unusual sleep symptoms, (3) endocrinological signs) and two in adult patients ((1) usual sleep symptoms, (2) unusual sleep symptoms). Inadequate knowledge of symptoms at onset by medical doctors turned out to be the main reported barrier to diagnosis.
CONCLUSIONS: This report will hopefully enhance knowledge and awareness of narcolepsy among non-specialists in sleep medicine in order to reduce the diagnostic delay that burdens patients in Italy. Similar initiatives could be promoted across Europe.