Symptoms of Pickwickian Syndrome

Symptoms of Pickwickian Syndrome are often times not diagnosed properly. As a result, the exact prevalence of this complication found in severely overweight people is not accurately known. Unfortunately, experts share the opinion that this condition will rise in the near future in the United States. The reason for this is a shocking and unprecedented rise of obesity in recent times. Patients suffering from this condition cannot breathe deeply or rapidly, leading to lowering of oxygen levels and rise in the levels of carbon dioxide in the body. People with a body mass index of 40 kg/m2 or higher are at greatest risk of developing this condition. Men are twice affected by it when compared to the women. The average age of patients diagnosed with this condition is 52 years.

Symptoms of Pickwickian Syndrome

  • Concurrent sleep apnea found in 10-20 percent of the patients where there is low or no breathing during sleep
  • Depression
  • Headache which becomes severe in the morning caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide
  • Snoring
  • Interrupted sleep
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure which cannot be controlled by medicines
  • Excessive strain on the right side of the heart has been found in a third of all patients suffering from this condition
  • Decreased tolerance of exercise
  • Chest pain
  • Swelling or edema in the skin of the legs
  • High pressure on the blood-carrying veins closest to the heart
  • Accumulation of fluids in the abdominal cavity
  • Difficulty for the heart to pump blood from the body through lungs
  • Palpable parasternal heave – Sound produced by a sustained outward movement of a portion of the heart

It is not known why the symptoms of Pickwickian Syndrome or Obesity hypoventilation syndrome are found in some obese people and not in others, but is suspected that the added weight on the body, literally crushes the lungs, preventing the ability to breathe deeply and acquire sufficient oxygen from the air to maintain normal body function.


National Library of Medicine: Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome

University of Maryland Medical Center: Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome

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