Prader-Willi syndrome is a disorder that results in a wide variety of symptoms and problems. This disorder is present from birth, although it may not be diagnosed immediately. While a variety of treatments and lifestyle adaptations can be used to help people with this condition, all patients need lifelong care and supervision. This disorder is rare, but it can be very challenging with which to cope. If you are a parent and suspect your child may have Prader-Willi syndrome, you should discuss your concerns with your pediatrician. Here are some symptoms of Prader-Willi Syndrome that can alert you to its presence.
Poor Muscle Tone
Both infants and children with Prader-Willi syndrome may exhibit poor muscle tone, indicating that their bodies are not processing nutrients in the way that they should. When holding an infant with Prader-Willi syndrome, they may feel like a rag doll, as if they cannot hold up their head or limbs even with support. Children may also be difficult to pick up since their muscles are not strong enough to assist their parent or guardian with lifting and carrying them. Even while sitting or lying down, it may be evident that their muscles appear feeble.
Failure to Thrive
Babies that experience failure to thrive may have Prader-Willi syndrome. This means that they do not grow at the same rate as their peers and may be malnourished. Most often, this is a result of an inability to feed properly. Many infants with this symptom have a weak sucking reflex, leaving them unable to get enough nourishment regardless of how they are fed. This reflex may be deficient in part because of the poor muscle tone that often accompanies this condition. Failure to thrive is a serious symptom, and you should seek medical attention if you notice that your child is not gaining weight.
The best-known Prader-Willi syndrome symptom is an insatiable desire for food. Children with Prader-Willi always feel as though they are hungry, no matter how much they eat. As a result, they may consistently eat too much to curb their hunger, consuming large portions at mealtime and frequently eating throughout the day. The only way to prevent children with Prader-Willi from becoming overweight is to carefully monitor their food intake, including locking up food and strictly monitoring portion size. Without careful guidance, they can’t control their diet.
Children with Prader-Willi may fail to meet reasonable milestones in their development, such as rolling over or walking. They typically lag behind their peers due to cognitive issues as well as physical disabilities. Because they do not develop muscle mass and are usually overweight, Prader-Willi patients do not have the same physical capabilities as other children their age. It may take much more effort to accomplish simple motor skills such as sitting up or standing on their own. Children with Prader-Willi syndrome usually reach these milestones eventually but may require extra time and patience to get there.
Symptoms of Prader-Willi Syndrome: Cognitive Disabilities
Cognitive function may be impaired in children with this condition. Prader-Willi syndrome usually results in mild to moderate intellectual disabilities, and those without serious cognitive developmental issues may still face some challenges. While this condition does affect cognitive ability, other factors, like the distraction of feeling constantly hungry, can impair learning processes. Consequently, children with Prader-Willi syndrome may lag behind their peers when it comes to intellectual matters. This can be combatted by working closely with your child’s pediatrician and school to come up with an effective alternative learning plan if necessary.
Many children with Prader-Willi syndrome have scoliosis, a condition in which the spine does not develop properly. The spine is typically straight, but with scoliosis, it develops into a curve instead. This curve may be C- or S-shaped, and it usually results in bad posture. Depending on the severity of the curve, it may also cause pain or physical impairment. Braces and other treatment options are available to treat scoliosis, and most schools test for this condition in primary or elementary school. Scoliosis may be harder to treat in children with Prader-Willi since they typically do not tolerate changes, like wearing a brace, very well.
Prader-Willi syndrome frequently manifests in behavioral problems. Children may feel agitated and angry, especially if they are prohibited from eating food. Toddlers who do not understand their condition yet are likely to be even more irritable. Temper tantrums and obsessive-compulsive behavior are common, and many Prader-Willi patients develop mental health issues as well. Children with this condition may search for food in unusual places, like trash cans, and they may even hoard food in their rooms in defiance of strict meal plans. This behavior may require therapy and counseling and could result in difficulties in school.
Beginning in infancy, children with Prader-Willi may have many eye- and vision-related issues, including a lack of coordination, nearsightedness, or difficulty seeing clearly. Babies with Prader-Willi may suffer from “lazy eye” conditions, in which one eye tends to wander off to the side. They may also be cross-eyed as a result of a lack of muscle tone, which makes the eyes less capable of moving in a fixed direction. As children get older, they are likely to have a host of vision problems that require corrective lenses. The most common of these is nearsightedness, or an inability to see things that are far away.
Many children who have Prader-Willi syndrome develop sleep apnea later in life. In this condition, sleep is disrupted due to an inability to breathe normally. Its symptoms include snoring and fatigue since it interrupts the sleeper’s deep sleep cycles. Sleep apnea can occur in anyone, but it is most common in adults and children who are overweight. Since children with Prader-Willi consume significant amounts of food when left unmonitored, many become obese. This can contribute to the development of sleep apnea and other sleep disorders. If your child seems unusually tired or is snoring loudly at night, it may be a sign that something is wrong.
High Pain Tolerance Level
When people feel pain, it lets them know that something is wrong with their body. For children with Prader-Willi syndrome, however, pain tolerance levels can be so high that they may not realize something is wrong. This can be dangerous, since they are not easily able to identify pain that can’t be seen, like an illness. If left unsupervised, they may not feel the pain of external stimuli, like a hot stovetop or boiling water, which can lead to more serious injuries. Consequently, children with Prader-Willi may need more supervision.