What Are the Special Concerns of a Bariatric Patient?

Erin J. Hill

The issues which could affect a bariatric patient are varied, but they may include diabetes, heart disease, respiratory issues, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and several other illnesses. Being severely overweight has also been linked with shortened lifespan and certain types of cancer. Those who undergo weight loss surgery or other bariatric weight loss treatments may have another list of problems. These can include constipation, sleep disturbances, emotional issues, diarrhea, vomiting, intestinal gas, hypoglycemia, and addiction. The exact concerns affecting an individual bariatric patient will depend on the person in question.

Obese people often have problems with regular sleeping patterns.
Obese people often have problems with regular sleeping patterns.

A bariatric patient is anyone who is severely overweight and who is seeking care for either the weight problem itself, or for issues related to his or her weight. In order to be considered a bariatric patient, one must be severely overweight. This is usually classified as having a body mass index reading of 30 or above. Those with readings in this range are considered obese, rather than just "overweight."

Hypoglycemia may be triggered in a bariatric patient.
Hypoglycemia may be triggered in a bariatric patient.

Patients who are obese may run into a wide range of health problems. Too much fat has been linked to everything from heart and liver problems to cancer. Women may be especially vulnerable to certain cancers of the breasts and reproductive organs, since fat cells can increase the levels of estrogen in the body. Elevated estrogen has been linked to endometrial and breast cancers.

It is also widely known that those who are overweight are also at a higher risk for type-2 diabetes. This can introduce an entirely new set of health problems, as well as exacerbate existing risk factors. For instance, both diabetes and obesity can raise one's risk for developing heart problems if left untreated.

To reduce the risks associated with being a bariatric patient, most individuals are advised to lose weight. Those who are still in relatively good health can usually begin a diet and exercise routine under a doctor's supervision. Sometimes diet drugs or appetite suppressants will be used in conjunction with these methods, at least until a certain number of pounds are lost. Those who are extremely overweight might not be able to lose weight on their own. For these patients, bariatric surgery may be recommended.

The use of bariatric surgeries, such as gastric bypass surgery, is usually reserved for those who are severely overweight. Many of these patients have attempted other weight loss methods without success. Gastric bypass, the most popular of these surgeries, involves removing part of the stomach and then re-routing the small intestine. This forces patients to eat less because the stomach is so much smaller.

Those who undergo this, or any other surgery may experience digestive upset in the form of constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, or stomach discomfort. Emotional issues can also arise, since many people who are overweight use food to mask emotional pain. When food is no longer available, they may be forced to overcome the root cause of their obesity. Other patients may experience secondary addiction to other substances, such as drugs or alcohol.

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