Obesity management in Prader-Willi syndrome

Antonino Crinò, Danilo Fintini, Sarah Bocchini, Graziano Grugni

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Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) is a complex multisystem disorder due to the absent expression of the paternally active genes in the PWS critical region on chromosome 15 (15q11.2-q13). The syndrome is considered the most common genetic cause of obesity, occurring in 1:10,000-1:30,000 live births. Its main characteristics include neonatal hypotonia, poor feeding, and lack of appetite in infancy, followed by weight gain, lack of satiety, and uncontrolled appetite, frequently after the age of 2-3 years. The clinical picture includes short stature, multiple endocrine abnormalities (hypogonadism, growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor-I axis dysfunction, hypothyroidism, central adrenal insufficiency), dysmorphic features, scoliosis, osteoporosis, mental retardation, and behavioral and psychiatric problems. Subjects with PWS will become severely obese unless their food intake is strictly controlled. Constant and obsessive food seeking behavior can make life very difficult for both the family and caretakers. Prevention of obesity is mandatory in these patients from the first years of life, because once obesity develops it is difficult to maintain the control of food intake. In fact, PWS subjects die prematurely from complications conventionally related to obesity, including diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome, sleep apnea, respiratory insufficiency, and cardiovascular disease. The mechanisms underlying hyperphagia in PWS are not completely known, and to date no drugs have proven their efficacy in controlling appetite. Consequently, dietary restriction, physical activity, and behavior management are fundamental in the prevention and management of obesity in PWS. In spite of all available therapeutic tools, however, successful weight loss and maintenance are hardly accomplished. In this context, clinical trials with new drugs have been initiated in order to find new possibilities of a therapy for obesity in these patients. The preliminary results of these studies seem to be encouraging. On the other hand, until well-proven medical treatments are available, bariatric surgery can be taken into consideration, especially in PWS patients with life-threatening comorbidities.
Original languageItalian
Pages (from-to)579-593
Number of pages15
JournalDiabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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