May 28, 2023
prader willi syndrome

Prader Willi Syndrome (PWS) is a rare and complex genetic disorder that affects various aspects of a person’s life, including physical, mental, and behavioral development. This condition is caused by the loss of function of specific genes on chromosome 15. It is characterized by a constant feeling of hunger, intellectual disabilities, and various other symptoms.

But what exactly is Prader Willi Syndrome, and how can it be managed? In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the various aspects of PWS, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.

1. What is Prader Willi Syndrome?

Prader Willi Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that affects approximately 1 in every 15,000 to 30,000 individuals. The condition is named after the two Swiss doctors, Andrea Prader and Heinrich Willi, who first described it in 1956. PWS affects both males and females equally and occurs in all ethnic groups.

The syndrome is characterized by a constant feeling of hunger, which can lead to life-threatening obesity if not properly managed. Additionally, individuals with PWS often experience intellectual disabilities, behavioral problems, and various physical symptoms. Although there is currently no cure for Prader Willi Syndrome, proper treatment and management can help individuals with the condition lead fulfilling lives.

2. Causes of Prader Willi Syndrome

Prader Willi Syndrome is caused by the loss of function of specific genes on chromosome 15. In most cases, the condition occurs due to a deletion of a portion of chromosome 15 inherited from the father.

In other cases, a person may have two copies of chromosome 15 from their mother and none from their father, a condition known as maternal uniparental disomic. Rarely, PWS can also result from a mutation or defect in the imprinting canter on chromosome 15

PWS is not typically inherited from an affected parent, as the genetic changes that cause the syndrome usually occur spontaneously during the formation of sperm or egg cells. However, in some cases, an affected person may have a small chance of passing the condition on to their children.

3. Symptoms of Prader Willi Syndrome

The symptoms of Prader Willi Syndrome can be divided into two main stages: the early (infant) stage and the later (childhood and adult) stage.

Early (Infant) Stage Symptoms:

  • Poor muscle tone (hypotonia)
  • Difficulty feeding and poor weight gain
  • Developmental delays
  • Weak cry and lethargy
  • Distinct facial features, such as almond-shaped eyes and a narrow forehead
  • Insatiable appetite and constant hunger
  • Obesity if food intake is not controlled
  • Short stature and underdeveloped genitals
  • Intellectual disabilities and learning difficulties
  • Behavioral problems, such as temper tantrums and stubbornness
  • Sleep disturbances and sleep apnea
  • Scoliosis (curvature of the spine)

Later (Childhood and Adult) Stage Symptoms:

4. Diagnosis of Prader Willi Syndrome

Diagnosing Prader Willi Syndrome can be challenging, as many of its symptoms overlap with those of other conditions. The diagnosis is typically based on clinical findings, such as the presence of characteristic symptoms and developmental history. Genetic testing is then used to confirm the diagnosis by identifying the specific genetic changes that cause PWS.

Early diagnosis is crucial for the effective management of Prader Willi Syndrome, as it allows for the implementation of appropriate interventions and support services.

5. Treatment and Management of Prader Willi Syndrome

There is currently no cure for Prader Willi Syndrome, but various treatments and interventions can help manage the condition and improve the quality of life for affected individuals. These may include:

  • Growth hormone therapy to improve growth, muscle tone, and bone strength
  • A carefully monitored diet and regular physical activity to manage weight and prevent obesity
  • Behavioral therapy and counseling to address behavioral issues and improve social skills
  • Educational support and special education services for learning difficulties
  • Medications to manage symptoms such as sleep disturbances and mood disorders
  • Regular medical check-ups to monitor for complications and adjust treatment as needed

6. Complications of Prader Willi Syndrome

Individuals with Prader Willi Syndrome are at risk for various complications, many of which are related to obesity and its associated health problems. These may include:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Respiratory problems, such as sleep apnea and respiratory infections
  • Gastrointestinal issues, such as constipation and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Bone and joint problems, such as osteoporosis and arthritis
  • Mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety

7. Support for Individuals with Prader Willi Syndrome and Their Families

Caring for a person with Prader Willi Syndrome can be challenging, but various support services and resources are available to help families navigate the complexities of the condition. These may include:

  • Support groups and online forums for individuals with PWS and their families
  • Educational resources and workshops on managing PWS
  • Advocacy organizations that raise awareness and promote research on the condition
  • Financial assistance and respite care services for families in need


Prader Willi Syndrome is a complex and lifelong genetic disorder that affects various aspects of a person’s life. Although there is no cure for PWS, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can help individuals with the condition lead fulfilling lives. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and management strategies for Prader Willi Syndrome, families, and caregivers can better support their loved ones and help them overcome the challenges associated with this rare condition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *