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Guide: Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome

A condition in which obese people fail to breathe deeply or rapidly enough is known as obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS). This condition is also defined as alveolar hypoventilation and results in low oxygen levels and high blood carbon dioxide levels. Plus, 90% of OHS obesity hypoventilation syndrome patients have obstructive sleep apnea, too.

And, since OHS can have quite serious or even fatal consequences, seeking medical treatment early is of utmost importance. So, continue reading this article to find out everything needed regarding obesity hypoventilation syndrome treatment.

Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome Treatment Options

In order to treat OHS successfully, the treatment must focus on the two major aspects of the syndrome: weight loss and breathing support.

Weight Loss

As you can guess from the name of the syndrome, the main contributor to OHS is obesity. Therefore, it is crucial to address this issue to be able to treat the condition. And, since the syndrome affects severely obese people, even more than 100 pounds of weight loss is sometimes needed. To achieve such results, patients should take exercise and diet very seriously and change their lifestyle completely.

However, losing 100 pounds in a short period of time isn’t a healthy option. In fact, to successfully lose such weight without negatively affecting your health, you must take your time and do the process under the supervision of your doctor. And, for best results, you may consult a nutritionist to get professional diet recommendations and a trainer for personalized exercising sessions.

Unfortunately, making diet and lifestyle changes sometimes isn’t enough to lose the needed weight in extremely obese people. In this case, weight loss medications may be considered or even surgical options like gastric bypass surgery. To be more precise, OHS patients with a body mass index (BMI) over 35 may qualify for bariatric surgery.

But, such surgeries may be extremely risky for OHS patients with sleep apnea because the anesthesia used for the surgery may lead to airway collapse and complicate the recovery. Thus, it is recommended that a sleep study is done before the surgery to determine whether or not a patient has sleep apnea.

Breathing Support

As we already mentioned, breathing support is another important aspect when it comes to treating obesity hypoventilation syndrome. It can be provided by continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or bilevel ventilation both of which generate a pressurized flow of air to avoid upper airway collapse while asleep.

Furthermore, if there are any other breathing issues in addition to the OHS such as COPD, supplemental oxygen therapy can also e added to the treatment. But, this is only in case of lung disease and isn’t suitable for treating OHS only since it can actually suppress breathing.

Plus, a tracheostomy, a procedure in which a plastic breathing tube is inserted in the throat, may be needed in severe cases. This is done to exclude the upper airway that causes obstruction in OHS patients. Yet, even though it is an effective procedure, it can make these patients prone to bronchitis.

Finally, to support breathing it is key that patients avoid alcohol consumption and other drugs that hamper breathing. Some prescription medications that should be avoided include benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and opiates. Hence, talk to your doctor about the medications you are taking to make sure that they aren’t interfering with your OHS treatment.

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