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May is Prader-Willi Syndrome Awareness Month

May is Prader-Willi Syndrome Awareness Month

Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) is a rare genetic multisystem neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is a gland in your brain which is responsible for regulation of all the systems in the body and control of hunger and thirst, temperature regulation, pain and stimulation hormone production amongst others. The disorder results in a number of physical, mental and behavioral problems.

PWS is caused by a lack of active genetic material in a specific region of chromosome 15 (15q11-q13). Individuals normally inherit one copy of chromosome 15 from their mother and another one from their father. The genes in the PWS region are normally only active on the chromosome that came from the father. There are 3 main molecular mechanisms that result in PWS: paternal deletion, maternal UPD 15, and imprinting defects.

A clear explanation of PWS symptoms, causes, diagnosis, genetics, treatments & research can be found on the Foundation for Prader-Willi Syndrome Research website. Watch the video below for a brief overview.

PWS was first described by Swiss doctors Andrea Prader, Alexis Labhart, and Heinrich Willi in 1956, based on the clinical characteristics of 9 children they examined. The common characteristics defined in the initial report included small hands and feet, small stature, very low lean body mass, early-onset childhood obesity, weak muscles at birth, insatiable hunger, extreme obesity, and intellectual disability.

PWS occurs in approximately 1 in 15,000 births. It affects both females and males of all races and ethnicities with equal frequency. Symptoms and severity may vary from one person to another. The symptoms also change over time in individuals with PWS, and a detailed understanding of the nutritional stages of PWS has been published. 

PWS is recognized as the most common genetic cause of life-threatening childhood obesity. There is no cure for Prader-Willi syndrome but many patients will benefit from a supervised diet, and some symptoms can be treated with hormone therapy. Other treatments include feeding therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, strict food supervision, exercise program, and counseling. Scientists are actively studying the normal role of the genetic sequences in the PWS region and how their loss affects the hypothalamus and other systems in the body.

Milan Dale

May is Prader-Willi Syndrome Awareness Month

Individuals, families, communities, schools and workplaces, various organisations, Associations and Foundations around the globe come together in May to raise awareness of Prader-Willi Syndrome, and also to raise funds to provide support and fund important research into this complex and life-threatening condition. The official awareness colour for Prader-Willi Syndrome is ORANGE as it had been previously used as the awareness colour for hunger.

Display your support by wearing orange in May and help raise awareness for PWS!

Sources: rarediseases.org, fpwr.org, pwsavic.org.au, webmd.com, wikipedia.org.

*All information in this post is published for general information and educational purposes only. Arms of Mercy NPC and the armsofmercy.org.za website do not offer any diagnosis or treatment, and will not be held liable for any adverse health effects, losses and/or damages whatsoever. Any action you take as a result of the information is at your own risk, and does not replace the advice of a qualified medical practitioner. Always consult with your medical healthcare practitioner.

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