Breathing Problems and Morbid Obesity

Breathing Problems Associated With Morbid Obesity

Aside from obstructive sleep apnea, morbid obesity may lead to several other breathing problems and respiratory disorders.

Asthma and Bronchitis

Obesity does not cause asthma or bronchitis. However, obesity may hamper or reduce breathing, thus aggravating asthma attacks. In addition, gastroesophageal reflux caused by obesity may aggravate asthma and may cause severe bronchitis. According to the ISFO, successful gastric bypass surgery reduces the number and severity of asthma attacks, especially if the asthma is associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome

Obesity hypoventilation syndrome typically occurs in very severely obese patients – over 350 pounds. Symptoms include episodes of drowsiness, or narcosis, occurring during waking hours and is caused by breathing irregularities and a build up of toxic levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. It is frequently associated with obstructive sleep apnea and may be difficult to distinguish from it. Like other breathing problems, obesity hypoventilation syndrome is significantly improved in 75-80 percent of patients after bariatric surgery.

Respiratory Insufficiency

Severely obese patients typically experience shortness of breath during and after physical exertion or exercise. This is due to the bulky/heavy nature of the chest wall caused by excess fat deposits. At the same time, due to their excessive weight, mobidly obese patients need more oxygen when exercising. Such breathing difficulty often restricts normal physical activity and can be completely disabling.


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