Pituitary-Adrenal Axis in Prader Willi Syndrome

Diseases. 2016 Jan 19;4(1):5. doi: 10.3390/diseases4010005.


Purpose: Prader Willi syndrome (PWS) is a rare genetic condition that has concurrent endocrinological insufficiencies. The presence of growth hormone deficiency has been well documented, but adrenal insufficiency (AI) is not widely reported. A review was conducted to investigate its prevalence and relevance in PWS in both adults and children.

Methodology: A literature review was performed with the search terms "Prader-Willi syndrome" and "adrenal insufficiency".

Results: The review found studies disagree on the prevalence and method of investigation of AI in PWS. Case studies demonstrate that patients with PWS are at risk of premature death, often secondary to respiratory infections. The possibility that this may be the result of the inability to mount an effective cortisol response has been studied, with some evidence confirming AI in PWS patients. Most reports agreed AI is present in PWS, however, Farholt et al. showed no HPA axis dysfunction in adults, suggesting that perhaps it is rare in adults, and children should be the focus of further studies.

Conclusion: AI is present in some patients with PWS. Further research is required to ensure optimal treatment can be implemented and to prevent premature deaths related to adrenal insufficiency. Clinicians should have a low threshold for testing the adrenal axis and considering treatment for adrenal insufficiency in PWS patients.

Keywords: PWS; adrenal; hydrocortisone; steroid.

Publication types

  • Review