Obesity Resource Center

Obesity Symptoms

While the foremost symptom of obesity is an observable amount of excess fat throughout the body (particularly in the abdomen), the condition can greatly impact the function of vital body organs and processes necessary for optimal living. As a result, obese patients are likely to develop some very common co-occurring health problems.


Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome (Shortness of Breath)[1]

A breathing disorder that is common among obesity sufferers due to increased fat on the neck and chest area. Left unchecked, the syndrome can result in an imbalance of carbon dioxide vs. oxygen in the blood, leading to sleep apnea, pulmonary hypertension, heart or respiratory failure.


Chronic pain and swelling

As BMI rises, so does the likelihood of chronic pain for the majority of obesity sufferers.[2] Excess fat on the body wears down bone cartilage, bears down on nerve endings, slows down the body’s natural healing and recovery processes, and can cause fluid build up particularly in the lower extremities. This combination leads to an increased risk of musculoskeletal pain and inflammation, arthritic conditions, joint pain and stiffness, back and spinal pain, fibromyalgia, swelling in lymph nodes, edema, chest tenderness, and more.[3]


Trouble engaging in low to moderate physical activity

Activities such as walking or climbing a flight of stairs may cause an obesity sufferer an abnormal amount of stress or pain. Becoming winded, lightheaded, being unable to stand for more than 10 minutes, or struggling participate in daily activities (like showering, grocery shopping, or walking the dog) can be indicators of obesity. Interestingly, limited physical activity is a main risk factor for obesity yet, obese pain sufferers tend to limit physical activity due to pain complaints.

Sleep Disorders – Disorders such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which occurs when one’s breathing suddenly stops then resumes during sleep due to the relaxing of the throat muscles and narrowing of the airway, reduces the level of oxygen in the blood. This can cause serious complications like heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and may also contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, liver problems and sleep deprivation.[4] Obesity puts an individual at a much higher risk for sleep apnea and other sleep disorders due to excess fat storage around the upper airway.


Poor Digestive Health

Digestive health and obesity are inextricably linked as gut health, adipose tissue, and metabolic efficiency all play a huge role in weight loss or gain. Conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic constipation, colorectal obstruction, and a variety of chronic GI symptoms may be directly related to weight.[5] Studies show that imbalances in bacteria (which are typically thrown off by the use of medications, antibiotics, sugar or carb laden diets, and other factors) are a main contributor to weight gain.[6] Chronic digestive issues can signal that excessive weight might be slowing the metabolic processes needed for healthy gut function.


Excessive Sweating

One common obesity symptom is excessive sweating. This type of sweating can occur when little physical exertion has taken place and is usually accommodated by fatigue, shortness of breath, and feeling winded. Obese patients are more likely to hold onto toxins ingested from foods and environmental chemicals due to a low-functioning metabolism.[7]


Cardiovascular Disease

Obesity is linked to a higher risk of heart disease in adults for a multitude of reasons. Elevated blood pressure levels, triglycerides, blood sugar, lipids (blood fat), poor circulation and hardened arterial walls are just a few of the harmful impacts that excessive weight and poor diet can do to the heart.[8] This can ultimately lead to sudden heart attacks, strokes, cardiac arrhythmias and sudden death. The good news is that losing just 5 to 10 percent of body weight can greatly reduce the chances of suffering any potentially life-threatening cardiac events.[9] If you have been diagnosed with any heart-related conditions, it is likely that your weight might be a factor.


Addictive Behaviors

Obesity at its core can be seen as an addictive relationship with food. Overeating on a regular basis is considered to be on par with alcohol or drug addiction given their many overlapping personality and behavioral characteristics.[10] If you frequently use food as a tool to emotionally cope with stress, anxiety, or depression, getting to the root of those issues should be your primary goal. Without addressing emotional health, unhealthy habits are likely to continue regardless of diet strategy.


Energy Levels

Excessive body fat can have a negative impact on energy for many reasons. Fat mass has no ability to contract or load bear, which puts a disproportionate emphasis on the bone structure and muscle structure. Muscles fatigue quickly with the load from the weight of added fat, making it even more difficult to exercise in order to lose weight. Energy, motivation and drive all have some hormonal mediators whose signaling can be interrupted with obesity, creating another biochemical obstacle to generating the energy needed to help overcome the problem.[11]


Mood Instability

Strong correlations exist between obesity and depression. Data shows that adults with depression are more likely to be obese than those without depression.[12] Additionally, stress hormones (specifically cortisol) have been shown to increase leptin. Consistent stress or emotional trauma not only impacts our eating habits, but also contributes to increased fat storage, while impacting the hormones and neurotransmitters that mediate one’s mood.[13] As for their cause and effect relationship, chronic depression or anxiety may increase the risk of obesity, while suffering from obesity may increase the likelihood of developing or worsening mental health issues.

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[1] https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/obesity-hypoventilation-syndrome
[2] https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/news/20120130/does-obesity-cause-pain
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4508090/
[4] https://obesitymedicine.org/obesity-and-sleep-apnea/
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5609829/
[6] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gut-bacteria-and-weight#section3
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12006126
[9] https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/health-risks-overweight
[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2910406/
[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14559057
[12] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db167.htm
[13] https://health.usnews.com/conditions/depression/can-obesity-cause-depression