Coping With Fatal Familial Insomnia
Fatal familial insomnia is an autosomal dominant inherited prion disease of the brain and is a rare condition. Also known as the FFI sleep disorder, the disease can develop in a patient spontaneously but is most often inherited and onset is typically seen between the ages of 30 and 60. The condition follows four stages starting with insomnia and moving on to hallucinations, a complete inability to sleep and finally dementia that often results in death.
Initially patients typically exhibit mild symptoms of increasing insomnia. A growing lack of sleep however leads many patients to experience panic attacks and phobias which can develop to the point where they feel unsafe and are unable to cope with their normal daily routine. They then start to hallucinate and the overwhelming stress they feel makes it even more difficult to sleep and locks them into a vicious cycle.
At this point it is common for patients to be prescribed sleeping pills but, in many cases, sleeping pills are not the answer and can in fact make the condition worse. The problem here is that this condition is so rare that it is often not diagnosed correctly in its initial stages and there are only a very few treatments available which will work to a greater of lesser degree depending upon the individual patient. Once the third stage of the disease is reached and the patient is experiencing an almost complete inability to sleep rapid weight loss usually occurs and dementia sets in within three months or less.
There is no cure for the disease but there are some effective treatments available which can help offer relief to patients. With treatment patients are often able to live a relatively normal life and avoid depression and the final state of dementia.
If you believe that you may be suffering from fatal familial insomnia then you should talk to your doctor without delay because the disease can progress rapidly and, once in its final stages, there is often no effective treatment. Although it must be taken seriously, you should not automatically assume that this disease is terminal and proper treatment can relieve its symptoms and, at the very least, improve your quality of life and buy you time. However, because the condition can progress very rapidly, and run through all four stages in some patients in a little over six months, you should not delay in seeking medical attention.
Finally, it should be remembered that fatal familial insomnia sufferers are aware of what is going on around them throughout all but the very final days of the disease and that it is important that have the love and support of their family and friends.