What is Pickwickian Syndrome?
If you suffer from a sleep disorder then you may have come across this oddly named syndrome which in medical circles is called Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome (OHS). OHS is a condition which affects people who are seriously overweight or obese.
Sufferers of Pickwickian Syndrome fail to breathe deeply enough or rapidly enough when asleep and this causes low blood oxygen levels and high blood carbon dioxide levels. Another side effect for some people is that they stop breathing completely for short periods; this is called sleep apnoea and combined, the symptoms cause extreme tiredness and result in a drastically reduced quality of life.
The effect of such disturbed sleep patterns is very serious and some people will eventually suffer heart failure as a result. The best course of action for those suffering from Pickwickian Syndrome is a serious weight loss programme under the guidance of medical professionals but in the meantime, there are other avenues to explore which may reduce symptoms and effects.
Nocturnal ventilation systems can help enormously with the symptoms of Pickwickian Syndrome and a machine called a CPAP (positive airway pressure) can be brought into the home to assist with breathing overnight. This is a course of action which is not taken lightly and the need for a CPAP machine is discussed with patients before they are issued with one and taught how to use it.
Signs and Symptoms of Pickwickian Syndrome
Snoring is the first and most common sign of sleep disturbance but when coupled with apnoea (short periods of breathing disruption) and extreme exhaustion during the daytime, it is common for GPs to explore the possibility of Pickwickian Syndrome. Another symptom is that sufferers begin to experience headaches which most commonly appear during the early morning.
A more visible symptom is that of edema (swelling due to water retention) in the legs. This is caused by the heart’s struggle to pump blood from the body through the lungs resulting in a pooling of fluid in the legs. Chest pains may also occur due to the strain which the heart is under.
Those suffering from Pickwickian Syndrome will experience a reduced quality of life which may also result in many hospital stays. The best and most effective treatment is weight loss and general practitioners will usually support this in any way that they deem suitable. A change of diet and an exercise regime is often prescribed when the patient is fit enough for this cause of action and in cases where the patient will not tolerate such a lifestyle change, surgery may be prescribed such as a gastric band.
Pickwickian Syndrome can seriously affect the lives of those suffering from it; not only are they permanently exhausted but they generally have trouble breathing and getting around so day to day tasks are hard to manage and this can result in depression and lethargy.
If you suspect that you are showing signs of Pickwickian Syndrome, speak to your GP without delay as the course of the disease can be halted and your life can be changed for the better with support from professionals.
Incase you are wondering where the name Pickwickian Syndrome came from, it was named after Joe, the fat, red faced boy who showed some of the traits in Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers.