Approach to the Patient With Prader-Willi Syndrome

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2022 May 17;107(6):1698-1705. doi: 10.1210/clinem/dgac082.


Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) is a rare, multisystemic, genetic disorder involving the hypothalamus. It is caused by loss of expression of paternally inherited genes in chromosome 15 q11-13 region. The estimated incidence is around 1 in 20.000 births. PWS is characterized by a complex lifelong trajectory involving neurodevelopmental, nutritional, endocrine, metabolic, and behavioral changes. The major symptoms are hypotonia, short stature, hypogonadism, and eating disorders ranging from anorexia in infancy to hyperphagia, a deficit of satiety, and a high risk of severe obesity. The patients display intellectual disability comprising cognitive deficit, delayed motor and language development, learning deficits, impaired social skills, and emotional regulation. Behavioral features including temper outbursts, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive symptoms and rigidity are common and become more apparent with increasing age. Almost all have hypogonadism and growth hormone deficiency. Central adrenal insufficiency is rare whereas central hypothyroidism occurs in up to 30% of children with PWS. The prevalence of obesity increases with age from almost none in early childhood to more than 90% in adulthood. Up to 25% of adults with obesity have type 2 diabetes. Obesity and its complications are the major causes of comorbidity and mortality in PWS. As there is no specific treatment, care consists of comprehensive management of feeding disorders, a restricted, controlled diet, regular exercise, hormone substitution, and screening and treatment of comorbidities. Here we present the course of PWS from birth to adulthood in 2 patients and discuss their symptoms in relation to the literature.

Keywords: Prader–Willi syndrome; children and adults; clinical characteristics; treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / complications
  • Humans
  • Hyperphagia / metabolism
  • Hypogonadism* / complications
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Prader-Willi Syndrome* / genetics