Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome

Is Being Overweight Affecting Your Breathing?

Image of Personal Weight ScaleObesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS) is a breathing problem that affects children and adults who are obese. Extra weight forces the respiratory system muscles to work harder than normal. In OHS, the nervous system may respond too slowly to having too much carbon dioxide and too little oxygen in the blood. Obstructive sleep apnea may also cause the disease.


Symptoms of OHS and sleep apnea are often the same. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Loud, chronic snoring
  • Snoring with pauses. This is followed by choking or gasping.
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Morning headaches
  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Irritability and depression
  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Shortness of breath during activity


The most effective treatment is weight loss, but it is often possible to relieve the symptoms by nocturnal ventilation with positive airway pressure (CPAP) or related methods. Support from a breathing machine (ventilator) may be needed for severe OHS that needs to be treated in a hospital.