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Table of Contents
Year : 2013  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 9  |  Page : 680-682

An obese young man with uncontrolled diabetes and insatiable hunger: Prader-Willi syndrome

1 Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India
2 Department of Genetics, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India

Date of Web Publication24-Dec-2013

Correspondence Address:
V P Jyotsna
Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2230-8210.123566

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Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) is a rare cause of obesity. With the rising incidence of obesity, clinicians need to be aware of genetic causes of obesity and when to suspect them. A case of PWS, which was diagnosed in adulthood, has been discussed. This case is special because of lack of history of floppiness in infancy and predominance behavioral problems.

Keywords: Genetic, obesity, Prader-Willi syndrome

How to cite this article:
Nair A, Kishore S, Gupta R, Sharma A, Jyotsna V P. An obese young man with uncontrolled diabetes and insatiable hunger: Prader-Willi syndrome. Indian J Endocr Metab 2013;17, Suppl S3:680-2

How to cite this URL:
Nair A, Kishore S, Gupta R, Sharma A, Jyotsna V P. An obese young man with uncontrolled diabetes and insatiable hunger: Prader-Willi syndrome. Indian J Endocr Metab [serial online] 2013 [cited 2021 May 8];17, Suppl S3:680-2. Available from: https://www.ijem.in/text.asp?2013/17/9/680/123566

   Introduction Top

 Prader-Willi syndrome More Details (PWS) is a rare cause of obesity. It occurs in 1/15,000-1/25,000 live births. [1] PWS was first described in 1956 by three Swiss doctors, Prader et al. [2] PWS is caused by the lack of expression of paternally inherited imprinted genes on chromosome 15q11-q13. It was the first recognized disorder related to genomic imprinting in humans. [3]

Here, we discuss a case of PWS, who presented to our out-patient department with uncontrolled diabetes.

   Description of Case Top

Patient was born of non-consanguineous marriage, full-term cesarean section delivery and cried normally after birth. Although he did not have a history of poor suck or floppiness in infancy, he had a delay in motor milestones and started to walk by himself at 2½ years of age and speak sentences at 5 years age. Bilateral undescended testis was identified at 1 year of age. Patient had severe increase in appetite by 6 years of age and progressive weight gain since 8 years of age with no active weight reduction measures.

Patient was put in a special school due to subnormal intelligence.

Patient underwent Lt orchiopexy with Rt orchidectomy at 15 years age.

At 16 years age detected to have diabetes with osmotic symptoms and initial plasma glucose F-140 mg/dl, PP-250 mg/dl with no H/o ketosis at presentation or thereafter.

He was initially started on oral antidiabetic drugs for 1 year with diet advice, which he could not follow due to intense hunger and craving for food and is on insulin for last 3 years.

Parents were troubled by his compulsive lying, craving for food, cigarettes and beedis. There was a history of sudden mood swings, aggressive behavior and exhibitionism. Started smoking heavily by 16 years age. What was striking was that, he used to cry for food during the day as well as night and complain to doctor on duty saying if he felt so hungry and what was his fault that he ate!

There was no history of visual, auditory problems or polydactyly. Both his parents are diabetic.

On examination, he had a height of 145 cm (mid parental height was 173 cm), weight of 79 kg, body mass index of 37.57 and abdominal circumference 112.5 cm.

He had an intelligence quotient (IQ) of 65-69. There was difficulty in articulating sentences. Fundus was normal. Muscular tone was decreased and muscle power was normal bilaterally in upper and lower limbs. Bilateral plantars had flexor response. Stretched penile length was 4 cm, testes was absent on the right side (orchiectomy) and was 1-2 ml on the left side. Pubic hair status was Tanner P1.


Glycated hemoglobin was 9.6%. Lipid, liver function tests and renal function tests were normal. Serum thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), serum T4 was normal. He had hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, hyperinsulinemia and normal cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone. Bone age corresponded to 18 years.

His obesity associated with hypogonadism, history of delayed milestones, hyperphagia, subnormal IQ, insatiable hunger with difficult to control diabetes, led us to think of genetic cause.

Cytogenetic analysis of patient showed normal karyotype.

The genomic deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) was processed for studies of the methylation status of the promoter region of the SPRPN gene for confirmation of the diagnosis of PWS. DNA extraction was followed by sodium bisulfite modification using EZ DNA Methylation-Gold Kit (Zymo research, USA). [4] This was followed by methylation specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using primer pairs specific for methylated and unmethylated alleles of the SNRPN promoter region. [5]

   Results Top

No changes were detected on chromosome 15 at 475 band levels on doing Giemsa trypsin banding. Methylation specific PCR revealed a methylated and unmethylated band in the parents, whereas patient showed the presence of only the methylated band of the promoter region of the SNRPN gene proving the diagnosis of PWS in the patient.


Patient was put on multiple subcutaneous insulin injections, regular exercise, metformin and 1400 calorie diabetic advice. He was started on triweekly testosterone injections.

   Discussion Top

In this case, the diagnosis was suspected on the basis of historical points of obesity, uncontrollable hyperphagia, developmental delay, subnormal intelligence, behavioral abnormalities, undescended testes and hypogonadotropic hypogonadism. However, this case was special as the patient did not have a history of hypotonia, low birth-weight or poor feeding in early life.

According to the consensus diagnostic criteria, [6] he had 6 major and 6 minor criteria with the total score 9 (8 required for diagnosis).

The syndrome shows great variability, with different features during a patient's life's different stages. [7] As a new born, the individual might suffer from severe hypotonia with feeding problems and global developmental delay. During infancy, these characteristics impede the acquisition of gross motor and language milestones. As a child, there is a development of hyperphagia that can lead to early onset. This is most probably caused by a hypothalamic dysfunction, which is also responsible for growth-hormone and TSH deficiencies, central adrenal insufficiency and hypogonadism.

During infancy, the child with PWS shows a characteristic problematic behavioral pattern, which has been reported to worsen with age.

The features which are sufficient to prompt a genetic testing for Prader- Willi Syndrome according to age at assessment include the following: [8]

Birth to 2 years, hypotonia with poor suck.

2-6 years:

  1. Hypotonia with history of poor suck
  2. Global developmental delay.

6-12 years:

  1. History of hypotonia with poor suck (hypotonia often persists)
  2. Global developmental delay
  3. Excessive eating (hyperphagia; obsession with food) with central obesity if uncontrolled.

13 years through adulthood:

  1. Cognitive impairment, usually mild mental retardation
  2. Excessive eating (hyperphagia; obsession with food) with central obesity if uncontrolled
  3. Hypothalamic hypogonadism and/or typical behavior problems (including temper tantrums and obsessive-compulsive features).

   Conclusion Top

With the rising incidence of obesity, we need to be aware of genetic causes of obesity and when to suspect them. A case of PWS - one of the genetic causes of obesity, which has been diagnosed in adulthood, has been described. This case was special for the lack of history of floppiness in infancy and for predominance of behavioral problems.

   References Top

1.Crinò A, Di Giorgio G, Livieri C, Grugni G, Beccaria L, Bosio L, et al. A survey on prader-willi syndrome in the Italian population: Prevalence of historical and clinical signs. J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab 2009;22:883-93.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Prader A, Labhart A, Willi H: A Syndrome characterized by obesity, small Stature, cryptorchidism and oligophrenia following a myotonia-like Status in infancy. Schweiz Med Wochenschr; Basel, 1956;86:1260-1.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Driscoll DJ, Waters MF, Williams CA, Zori RT, Glenn CC, Avidano KM, et al. A DNA methylation imprint, determined by the sex of the parent, distinguishes the angelman and prader-willi syndromes. Genomics 1992;13:917-24.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Miller SA, Dykes DD, Polesky HF. A simple salting out procedure for extracting DNA from human nucleated cells. Nucleic Acids Res 1998;16:1215.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Kosaki K, McGinniss MJ, Veraksa AN, McGinnis WJ, Jones KL. Prader-willi and angelman syndromes: Diagnosis with a bisulfite-treated methylation-specific PCR method. Am J Med Genet 1997;73:308-13.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Holm VA, Cassidy SB, Butler MG, Hanchett JM, Greenswag LR, Whitman BY, et al. Prader-willi syndrome: Consensus diagnostic criteria. Pediatrics 1993;91:398-402.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Elena G, Bruna C, Benedetta M, Stefania DC, Giuseppe C. Prader-willi syndrome: Clinical aspects. J Obes 2012;2012:473941.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Gunay-Aygun M, Schwartz S, Heeger S, O'Riordan MA, Cassidy SB. The changing purpose of prader-willi syndrome clinical diagnostic criteria and proposed revised criteria. Pediatrics 2001;108:E92.  Back to cited text no. 8


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