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Prader-Willi Syndrome: A Rare Overeating Disorder


While bulimia is one of the well-known overeating disorders, this condition is considered to be pretty rare since it affects up to 4 percent of the entire population at most. However, there is another rare overeating disorder that most people are not familiar with called Prader-Willi syndrome.

Prader-Willi syndrome is the most common genetic cause of life-threatening childhood obesity because those affected have an intense craving for food and will do almost anything to get their hands on food.

What is Prader-Willi Syndrome?

Prader-Willi syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects about one in 15,000 births, according to the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research. It is caused by having a gene missing on a part of chromosome 15. In most people with Prader-Willi syndrome, they are missing the genetic material on the part of chromosome 15 that is inherited from their father. In some people with this disorder, they have two copies of chromosome 15 from their mother.

What Are the Symptoms of Prader-Willi Syndrome?

People with Prader-Willi syndrome are affected by obesity as well as reduced muscle tone and mental ability along with sex glands that produce little or no hormones.

Signs of this syndrome can be seen at birth. Newborns that are small and floppy and males that have undescended testicles are two tell-tale signs of Prader-Willi syndrome. Other signs include:

  • • Trouble eating and poor weight gain as infants
  • • Eyes that are almond-shaped
  • • Small hands and feet compared to rest of body; short stature
  • • Motor skill and mental development delays

Are There Treatments for Prader-Willi Syndrome?

Limiting overeating and overall caloric intake is the best way to halt the obesity that develops with this condition. However, family members, friends, teachers and others must work together to limit a child’s food intake because the child will do anything to get food whenever possible.

Growth hormone is used to help improve the physical symptoms of the condition, and hormone replacement therapies are used during puberty to correct the low levels of sex hormones.

Source: National Institutes of Health and Foundation for Prader-Willi Research