Gastroenterology

Constipation | Gut health | Impaction |

Researchers are discovering important problems in the gastrointestinal systems in persons with Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS).

It has been know for some time that persons with PWS of all ages can have problems with swallowing, choking, stomach issues and chronic constipation. Due to the low muscle tone in people with PWS, the entire gastrointestinal (GI) system is compromised. It takes much longer for food to pass through the GI system. This slower processing of food through the GI system can lead to severe issues. Until recently, there had only been a few research publications to help us understand why this happens so frequently. 

Over the counter methods to clear constipation in PWS patients may be ineffective due to insufficient fluid intake and hypotonia. Reliance on these methods of treatment may cause life-threatening conditions such as necrosis and perforation of the colon and subsequent sepsis.

Due to the high pain threshold of someone with PWS, patients may not present with regular clinical symptoms. A heavier reliance on imaging may be necessary. Individuals may be at higher risk for impaction.

It is essential that any person with PWS who is experiencing problems with their gastrointestinal system be promptly seen and evaluated by their General Practitioner (GP) and, if needed, referred to a gastroenterologist (a physician who specialises in the digestive system). Even if the person with PWS is not currently experiencing symptoms such as choking or difficulty swallowing, it is highly recommended that your concerns are discussed with your GP.

Further information

The Prader-Willi Syndrome Association (USA) have developed the following information sheets ‘Hidden Gut Issues’ and ‘Constipation in individuals with Prader-Willi Syndrome‘ which may be helpful.