What is Prader-Willi Syndrome?

Some people joke about always feeling hungry when someone calls them out for gaining weight, but for children who go to great pains just to get a morsel of food because they never feel full, it’s no longer a joke.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Prader-Willi syndrome is a genetic disease caused by an error in the chromosomes, specifically chromosome 15. There is no explanation why this happens, and the symptoms do not usually manifest in infants until they start feeding. Although there are no obvious physical defects, it affects the child’s behavior, learning capabilities, and emotional growth.

The most obvious symptom is the child’s insatiable hunger, caused by the body’s inability to send signals whether it’s full or not no matter how much the child eats. As a result, the child is constantly seeking food and may be in danger of obesity and its related problems. They are also prone to learning difficulties, restricted growth, and behavioral problems, and the only way to determine if the child has PWS is through genetic testing if the child shows some of these symptoms.

Treatment of Prader-Willi Syndrome

Unfortunately, there is no cure for PWS, which is why parents are advised to closely monitor the child’s eating habits and to manage the symptoms associated with weight problems. Most families affected by this disease need to impose a restricted but balanced and healthy diet for the child, a task that can be emotionally draining for parents.

The child will go to great lengths to obtain food, and there are even cases where the child would willingly eat animal excrement just to satisfy their hunger. Dealing with the child’s behavior problems brought about by constant hunger is the most challenging part of the treatment, not the diet itself. Some teenagers with PWS live in care facilities to help them eat a healthy diet and enjoy a safe environment, although a strict meal plan at home will give the same benefits.

Lifestyle and Diet

The symptoms of PWS are not life-threatening as long as the family of the child can control the eating habits and prevent problems associated with obesity. Infants with PWS are advised to have a high-calorie formula to prevent the decrease in muscle tone, while older children may be given human growth hormone treatment if there are problems in the child’s physical growth and development.

Others are also advised to get hormone replacement therapy to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis and a to observe a reduced-calories diet to manage the child’s weight. Physical activities are also encouraged to maintain an ideal weight and to take off the child’s mind from food obsession. Other physical symptoms are treated separately if the child has diabetes, scoliosis, hypothyroidism or eye problems.

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