Most health problems related to obesity can be greatly improved, or entirely resolved, with successful weight loss. Many people have observed this, at least for short periods, after a weight loss by dieting. Unfortunately, with dieting, such benefits usually do no last, because weight regain almost always occurs.
Benefits of Surgical Weight Loss
Studies show that the weight loss achieved with weight loss surgery can average 80% of excess body weight, and can be maintained for years after surgery. We instruct patients in a very simple program, which is much easier to follow when one is not constantly deprived on a diet. Medical conditions that may be greatly improved after surgery include:
High Blood Pressure: At least 70% of patients who have high blood pressure, and who are taking medications to control it, are able to stop all medications and have a normal blood pressure, usually within 2 to 3 months after surgery. When medications are still required, their dosage can be lowered, with reduction of the annoying side effects.
High Cholesterol: More than 80% of patients will develop normal cholesterol levels within 6 months after the operation.
Diabetes: More than 80% of type II diabetics obtain excellent results after weight loss surgery, usually within a few weeks after surgery: normal blood sugar levels, normal hemoglobin A1C values and freedom from all their medications, including insulin injections. Based upon numerous studies of diabetes and the control of its complications, it is likely that the problems associated with diabetes will slow in their progression when blood sugar is maintained at normal values. There is no medical treatment for diabetes that can achieve as complete and profound an effect as surgery, which has led some physicians to suggest that surgery may be the best treatment for diabetes in the seriously obese patient. Abnormal glucose tolerance, or “borderline diabetes,” is even more reliably reversed by gastric bypass. Because this condition becomes diabetes in many cases, the operation can frequently prevent diabetes as well. In weight loss surgery patients, 50 to 60% of diabetes patients achieve remission of diabetes within 1 to 2 years after surgery.
Asthma: Most patients with asthma find that they have fewer and less severe attacks, or sometimes none at all. When asthma is associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease, it is particularly benefited by weight loss surgery.
Heart Disease: Although we can’t say definitively that heart disease is reduced, the improvement in problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes certainly suggests that improvement in risk is very likely. In one recent study, the risk of death from heart disease was profoundly reduced in diabetic patients who are particularly susceptible to this problem. It may be many years before further proof exists because there is no easy and safe test for heart disease.
Respiratory Insufficiency: Improvement of exercise tolerance and breathing ability usually occurs within the first few months after surgery. Often, patients who have barely been able to walk find that they are able to participate in family activities, and even sports.
Sleep Apnea: Dramatic relief of sleep apnea occurs as our patients lose weight. Many report that within a year of surgery, their symptoms were completely gone, and they had even stopped snoring completely – and their partners agreed. Many patients who require an accessory breathing apparatus to treat sleep apnea no longer need it after weight loss surgery. This should be confirmed by a repeat sleep study.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Relief of all symptoms of reflux usually occurs within a few days of weight loss surgery for nearly all patients. We are now beginning a study to determine if the changes in the esophageal lining membrane, called Barrett’s esophagus, may be reversed by the surgery as well – thereby reducing the risk of esophageal cancer. Weight loss surgery patients generally have major improvement in GERD, but 20 to 30% of patients may need to take heartburn medication long-term.
Stress Urinary Incontinence: This condition responds dramatically to weight loss and usually becomes completely controlled. A person who is still troubled by incontinence can choose to have specific corrective surgery later, with much greater chance of a successful outcome with a reduced body weight.
Low Back Pain, Degenerative Disk Disease, and Degenerative Joint Disease: Patients usually experience considerable relief of pain and disability from degenerative arthritis and disk disease and from pain in the weight-bearing joints. This tends to occur early, with the first 25 to 30 pounds lost, usually within a month after surgery. If there is nerve irritation or structural damage already present, it may not be reversed by weight loss, and some pain may persist.
To schedule an appointment with the Blessing Weight Loss Center or refer a patient, please call (217) 214-5800.