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Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome (OHS) or Pickwickian syndrome

  • Posted on- Aug 27, 2015
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Many obese people have Pickwickian syndrome or Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome (OHS). A person with OHS experiences breathing difficulties due to intense pressure from excessive weight. The excess body fat constricts chest and diaphragm movements and restricts them from getting the right amount of oxygen for the body. This results to a lower oxygen level that may lead to heart strain. The disorder also causes higher carbon dioxide absorption in the blood that leads to drowsiness and headaches.

People with obesity hypoventilation syndrome often experience disrupted sleep cycle. In worse cases, it causes total lack of sleep that leads to excessive sleepiness during daytime. People who suffer from it may end up falling asleep even while doing a simple day-to-day task. In some cases, a person who experiences difficult respiration may exhibit cyanosis or the bluish hue on the skin. Others may also experience shortness of breath, swelling of the legs and feet, and fatigue even from little physical exertion. There are cases in which the person experiences depression, irritability, and extreme headaches. Some reports connect car accidents to drowsiness due to OHS.

Prolonged obesity hypoventilation syndrome increases health care costs and may reduce the sufferer's quality of life. Medical professionals administer diagnostic tests to determine if a person has Pickwickian syndrome. These tests include Pulmonary Function Test (PFT) and an arterial blood gas test. A PFT helps evaluate the functionality, volume, and diffusion capacity of the person's lungs. An arterial blood gas test, on the other hand, measures the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the bloodstream. This method allows the doctor to assess the degree of imbalance in the blood. Some doctors may advise the patient to participate in a sleep study to evaluate the condition further.

Since obesity hypoventilation syndrome is due to obesity, the best possible solution is weight loss. To achieve this, it is important to have regular exercise and a balanced diet. This might take a lot of time and effort especially for those who have full time jobs. People can combat this disorder by having a proactive lifestyle. It can also be beneficial to join support groups that promote healthy lifestyle through educational materials, activities, and group discussions among people with the same disorder.

Weight loss surgery can be another solution but this might cost a lot of money and may not give the best results. Treatment methods for breathing assistance can be another option. These methods use special machines and mechanical ventilation. It also involves an incision in the neck or a non-invasive mask that fits tightly over the nose and mouth. The machines aid in proper oxygenation of blood. A person who requires constant ventilation assistance due to a narrowed airway passage may undergo tracheotomy. This process involves the placement of a breathing tube in the windpipe through a surgical incision in the neck.

Once you see symptoms of obesity hypoventilation syndrome, do not hesitate to get immediate medical attention. Professionals can help you overcome the issue through modern methods and medication. More importantly, engaging in a healthy lifestyle makes a lot of difference.