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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome?

Many of the signs and symptoms of obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS) are the same as those of obstructive sleep apnea. This is because many people who have OHS also have obstructive sleep apnea.

One of the most common signs of obstructive sleep apnea is loud and chronic (ongoing) snoring. Pauses may occur in the snoring. Choking or gasping may follow the pauses.

Other symptoms include:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Morning headaches
  • Memory, learning, or concentration problems
  • Feeling irritable or depressed, or having mood swings or personality changes

You also may have rapid, shallow breathing. During a physical exam, your doctor might hear abnormal heart sounds while listening to your heart with a stethoscope. He or she also might notice that the opening to your throat is small and your neck is larger than normal.

Complications of Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome

When left untreated, OHS can cause serious problems, such as:

  • Leg edema, which is swelling in the legs caused by fluid in the body's tissues.
  • Pulmonary hypertension, which is increased pressure in the pulmonary arteries. These arteries carry blood from your heart to your lungs to pick up oxygen.
  • Cor pulmonale, which is failure of the right side of the heart.
  • Secondary erythrocytosis, which is a condition in which the body makes too many red blood cells.
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Updated: January 27, 2012