What is Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome?

By on June 18, 2013

Obesity Hypoventilation SyndromeObesity hypoventilation syndrome is one of the breathing disorders in people who are obese in which poor breathing may leads to higher carbon dioxide and lower oxygen levels in blood.

The main features of Obesity hypoventilation syndrome include:

  • Depression
  • Daytime Sleepiness
  • Headaches

Low levels of oxygen in blood can cause shortness of breathing or feeling tired after little effort.


Exact cause behind OHS is not clear, this condition is due to both excessive weight against chest wall, and defect in brain’s control for breathing. These reasons may make it tough to take deep breath.

Due to the excessive amount of carbon dioxide in the blood and lower oxygen levels in blood can cause various health problems. People who are suffering with obesity hypoventilation syndrome are usually have poor quality sleep, feeling tired due to sleeplessness.


This syndrome cannot be diagnosed on the history and a single examination, but it needs the demonstration of the daytime hypercapnia. People who are with OHS are generally overweight. Physical examination may reveal:

  • Reddish skin color
  • Bluish lips, toes, skin, or fingers
  • You may experience the signs of right side heart failure like swollen feet or legs, shortness of breathe

Tests needed to help in the diagnosis and confirmation of OHS includes:

  • CT scan of chest or x-ray to figure out the possible causes
  • Lung tests for proper functions
  • Study on your daily sleep

Your physician can confirm your OHS with obstructive sleep apnea symptoms, since people with OHS have high levels of carbon dioxide in blood when you are awake.


OHS complication can be related to the sleep, which includes:

  • Irritability, Agitation, Depression
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Increased risk for injuries, work time mistakes and accidents due to sleeplessness

OHS may also lead to heart problems, like:

  • Right side heart failure
  • High blood pressure in the lungs (Pulmonary hypertension)
  • Hypertension


Returning to normal body weight is very important for the success of any kind of treatment. Generally treatment for obesity hypoventilation syndrome involves breathing assistance by using specific machinery. Here are the treatment options:

  • Oxygen
  • Non-invasive ventilation through machines by suing a mask, which fits over the nose or even nose and mouth
  • Helping in breathing by opening the neck

Other treatments can be aimed to the weight loss that can reverse the symptoms of OHS. This can cause severe health problems; therefore following certain treatment plan is necessary. Get help from your family members and physician to manage your condition.

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