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What is Morbid Obesity?

Morbid Obesity is a Serious Health Condition

Morbid obesity is a serious health condition that can interfere with basic physical functions such as breathing or walking. Those who are morbidly obese are at greater risk for illnesses including diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gallstones, osteoarthritis, heart disease, and cancer.

Morbid obesity is diagnosed by determining Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is defined by the ratio of an individual’s height to his or her weight. Normal BMI ranges from 20-25.  An individual is considered morbidly obese if he or she is 100 pounds over his/her ideal body weight, has a BMI of 40 or more, or 35 or more and experiencing obesity-related health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

Common Obesity Related Conditions

Obesity-related health conditions reduce life expectancy. Here are some of the more common conditions. If you would like more information, please speak with your physician.

  • Type 2 diabetes. People who are obese become resistant to insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels. They end up with high blood sugar, which causes Type 2 diabetes.

  • High blood pressure/heart disease. The heart doesn't work right when the body is carrying around excess weight. So, the obese person usually gets hypertension (high blood pressure), which leads to strokes and damages the heart and kidneys.

  • Osteoarthritis of weight-bearing joints. Additional weight placed on joints—especially knees and hips—causes rapid wear and tear, along with pain and inflammation. Similarly, the strain on bones and muscles in the back leads to disk problems, pain, and decreased mobility. Learn more about osteoarthritis.

  • Sleep apnea/respiratory problems. Fat deposits in the tongue and neck can block air passages, especially in patients who sleep on their backs. This causes them to lose sleep and results in daytime drowsiness and headaches. Learn more about sleep apnea.

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (hiatal hernia and heartburn). Excess weight weakens and overloads the valve at the top of the stomach, which then allows stomach acid to escape into the esophagus. This is called gastroesophageal reflux, and "heartburn" and acid indigestion are common symptoms. Approximately 10-15% of patients with even mild heartburn develop Barrett's esophagus, which is a pre-malignant change in the lining membrane and a cause of esophageal cancer. 

  • Depression. People who are obese must deal with constant, depressing emotional challenges: failed diets, disapproval from family and friends, remarks from strangers. Plus, they often experience discrimination and cannot fit comfortably in public places. Learn more about depression.

  • Infertility. Obesity wreaks havoc with male and female hormones, disrupting normal cycles and function, and leading to difficulty or inability to conceive.  

  • Urinary stress incontinence. A large, heavy abdomen relaxes pelvic muscles, compounding the effects of childbirth. This weakens the valve on the urinary bladder, allowing leakage when coughing, sneezing, or laughing. Learn more about urinary stress incontinence.

Surgery Options

Working with your Surgeon, you will choose a surgery option that is right for you.
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