Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Rare illness turns girl, 15, into ‘sleeping beauty’

When 15-year-old Louisa Ball takes a nap, she doesn’t mess around. She sleeps for days on end, and no amount of shaking or prodding can fully wake her up.

The British girl from Worthing, West Sussex, has a rare condition called Sleeping Beauty Sickness, but there’s no Prince Charming on the way to rescue her. Doctors don’t know what causes it or how to cure it — only that it strikes teenagers and goes away by itself after eight to 12 years.

Photo from here.

Until it goes away, life is groggy ever after.

Louisa’s mum, Lottie, said that the girl had flulike symptoms just over a year ago. Shortly afterward, she had her first bout of extended sleeping.

She was eventually diagnosed with Kleine-Levin Syndrome, whose victims worldwide may number no more than 1,000. The victims live normally for weeks or months at a time, with normal sleep patterns and normal energy levels. Then, with little warning, they’ll go to sleep for days or weeks at a time. So far, Louisa’s longest bout in bed has been 13 days.

Now, Louisa’s friends can tell when a bout is coming on. She stops talking and she may be irritable. That’s when she knows she has to get home to her bed. Louisa has slept through family vacations, the dance recitals she loves to perform in, school tests and big chunks of her social life. When she finally snaps out of an episode, her friends fill her in on what she missed, but it becomes increasingly difficult to catch up on missed schoolwork.

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