Overview

Pickwickian syndrome


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A breathing-related sleep disorder associated with moderate or extreme obesity, hypoventilation (diminished or insufficient breathing, leading to low oxygen content of the blood), chronic drowsiness, cyanosis (a dark bluish to purplish coloration of the skin), and right-sided heart failure. The term Pickwickian was first applied to drowsiness caused by obesity by the Canadian physician Sir William Osler (1849–1919) in his book The Principles and Practice of Medicine (1918). The phrase Pickwickian syndrome first appeared in the title of an article by the US physician C(harles) Sidney Burwell (1893–1956) and three colleagues in the American Journal of Medicine in 1956. Also called obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS). Compare central alveolar hypoventilation syndrome. [The term alludes to Joe, a ‘fat and red-faced boy, in a state of somnolency’ in the Pickwick Papers by the English novelist Charles Dickens (1812–70)]

Subjects: Psychology.


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