The symptoms of narcolepsy are often mistaken or even missed by physicians, which can seriously impact patient care.

“It is often 10 years from the onset of narcolepsy symptoms until the patient is accurately diagnosed,” Richard Bogan,MDassociate clinical professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, told Healio Primary Care. “We need to do what we can to bring that 10-year timeframe for that diagnosis down.”

Data support Bogan’s concern. A 2014 Postgraduate Medicine survey showed that only 7% of primary care physicians and 22% of sleep specialists identified all the “key narcolepsy symptoms.”

Physicians’ misunderstanding of narcolepsy is not new. Nearly 30 years ago, sleep disorder experts wrote in the Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology that narcolepsy “is probably the most clearly misunderstood diagnostic category” among patients who complain of excessive daytime sleepiness, generally considered a telltale feature of the condition.