Encyclopedia Home / M / Morbid obesity

Morbid obesity

  • Definition

    The term morbid obesity refers to patients who are 50 - 100% -- or 100 pounds above -- their ideal body weight. Alternatively, a BMI (body mass index) value greater than 39 may be used to diagnose morbid obesity.


    Medical problems commonly resulting from untreated morbid obesity include the following:

    • Diabetes
    • Hypertension
    • Heart disease
    • Stroke
    • Certain cancers, including breast and colon
    • Depression
    • Osteoarthritis

    Affected people may gradually develop hypoxemia (decreased blood oxygen saturation) and have problems with sleep apnea (periodic cessation of breathing while asleep).

    Decreased blood oxygen and problems associated with sleep apnea may result in feeling drowsy through the day (somnolence), high blood pressure, and pulmonary hypertension. In extreme cases, especially when medical treatment is not sought, this can lead to right-sided heart failure (cor pulmonale), and ultimately death.

    Common Causes
    • Excessive caloric intake
    • Thyroid disorders
    • Lack of physical activity