Complications of Untreated Obesity
The complications of untreated obesity are many and can be serious. The good news is that many of the conditions caused or made worse by obesity can be reduced or even eliminated if the person returns to a normal weight. This includes a disease as potentially devastating as Type II diabetes. Here are some complications of obesity:
Type II Diabetes
Obese people are greatly at risk for developing this form of diabetes. In Type II diabetes, the body may be producing insulin, but the insulin isn’t being used properly. This means that glucose, a simple sugar that provides food for the cells, can’t be used for energy. The glucose simply accumulates in the bloodstream. This leads to other complications likecardiovascular disease, kidney disease, problems with the eyes, numbness, tingling and pain in the extremities, nerve damage and infections that are slow to heal.
Obesity also makes a person more at risk for sleep apnea. In this condition, the person stops breathing momentarily while they’re asleep. They awaken briefly to take a breath but usually don’t remember waking up. This can happen many many times over the course of a night, and the person doesn’t know why he or she is so groggy when they finally wake up in the morning and why they find it so hard to pay attention at work or at school. Sleep apnea is often accompanied by loud snoring and gasping.
Metabolic syndrome is a constellation of signs and symptoms that point to a person developing heart disease or diabetes. A person with metabolic syndrome is several times at risk for developing either of these conditions as someone without the syndrome. Metabolic syndrome includes hyperglycemia, high levels of the “bad,” or LDL cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides, hyptertension and a waist size that’s over 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
In Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, acids from the stomach wash back up into the esophagus. Normally, there’s a sphincter between the stomach and the esophagus that prevents this, but in obese people the sphincter doesn’t seem to work as well. The symptoms of GERD include what feels like heartburn, pains in the chest that might mimic a heart attack, a sore throat, the feeling that there’s a lump in the person’s throat or an unproductive cough. Complications from GERD are scarring in the esophagus, which can cause it to narrow. Sores can also form in the esophagus, and sometimes the sores can become precancerous. The patient might have to have regularendoscopies to make sure that the changes in his or her esophagus don’t become malignant.
Quality of Life
Even an otherwise healthy obese person might have a reduced quality of life. Some obese people are self-conscious about their weight. This can restrict their social lives. Unfortunately, it’s been shown that employers may discriminate against obese people, and this might make it difficult for obese people to find employment. It may be hard to exercise, get around or navigate public accommodations.