Symptoms of Excess Glycogen Storage

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Excess glycogen storage occurs when you eat more glucose (sugar) than your body needs for energy at that moment or when you have a medical condition that affects how your body processes glucose and glycogen (which is made from glucose). 

Excess glucose makes your blood sugar rise, which starts a chain reaction that changes it into glycogen. Glycogen is then stored in your muscle and liver cells. 

Later, when your body needs energy, it converts glycogen back into glucose for quick energy. When something interferes with this process, your body eventually runs out of places to store glycogen. That’s when it becomes a problem.

This article will review the symptoms of different causes of excess glycogen storage, the complications they can lead to, and when you should make an appointment with your healthcare provider.

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Symptoms of Excess Glycogen Storage

Symptoms of excess glycogen storage depend on the underlying cause. Medical conditions that cause it include metabolic syndrome and a group of rare childhood diseases called glycogen storage diseases (GSD).

Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome

Regularly overeating glucose can contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome (MetS). This condition is defined as having three or more risk factors for other illnesses, including heart disease.

Those risk factors include:

It takes medical testing to uncover most of these factors, and they often don’t cause symptoms. The exceptions are a large waistline and hyperglycemia.

Hyperglycemia may cause:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Increased hunger
  • Blurry vision
  • Fatigue
  • Yeast infections
  • Poor wound healing

Prevalence of MetS

Between about 22% and 30% of Americans have metabolic syndrome. It's considered an epidemic both in the United States and worldwide.

Symptoms of Childhood GSD

GSD has several subtypes. In some of them, the body doesn’t have the enzymes needed to convert stored glycogen back into usable glucose, so the stores are never depleted.

Symptoms of GSD usually start when a baby is about 3 or 4 months old. Symptoms may include:

GSD Prevalence

About 1 in every 25,000 newborns has a glycogen storage disease.

Complications of Excess Glycogen Storage

If metabolic syndrome or a GSD goes untreated, it can lead to serious health problems called complications.

Complications of Metabolic Syndrome

Complications of MetS include:

If you have MetS, talk to your healthcare provider about your risk of these serious illnesses. You may be able to reduce your risk with proper treatment and lifestyle changes.

Complications of Glycogen Storage Disease

Complications vary by type of GSD, but they can include:

Frequent bouts of hypoglycemia can eventually lead to:

  • Seizures
  • Delayed growth and development
  • Muscle weakness
  • “Doll-like” faces with fat cheeks
  • Thin arms and legs
  • Being shorter than average
  • A distended abdomen

Prompt and proper treatment can help your child avoid these potential complications.

Types of GSD

Glycogen storage disease comes in more than a dozen types. About 90% of cases are made up of four types:

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you have any known risk factors for metabolic syndrome, ask your healthcare provider whether you have other risk factors and what to do about them.

Contact your child’s healthcare provider if you notice symptoms that could indicate a GSD, including:

  • Behavioral changes after you stop nighttime feedings
  • Abnormally slow growth
  • Constant hunger
  • Swollen belly


Excess glycogen storage can be caused by eating too much sugar, metabolic syndrome, or childhood glycogen storage diseases. Glycogen is a source of quick energy, but when you have too much, your body runs out of places to store it.

The only noticeable symptom of metabolic syndrome is a thick waistline. Other signs require medical testing. Untreated, MetS can lead to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

GSD symptoms vary by type of disease. Common ones include a rapid heartbeat, hunger, nausea, vomiting, weakness, abdominal pain, gout, or kidney stones. Complications can be diseases in major organs and delayed growth and development.

See a healthcare provider if you notice symptoms or risk factors that could suggest one of these illnesses.

A Word From Verywell

Conditions that involve excess glycogen storage can have some scary symptoms and complications. Remember, though, that these diseases can be treated and well-managed.

Work closely with your healthcare provider (or your child’s) to find the right treatments and lifestyle changes.

14 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Glycogen storage disease.

  2. Kahali B, Chen Y, Feitosa MF, et al. A noncoding variant near PPP1R3B promotes liver glycogen storage and metS, but protects against myocardial infarction. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2021;106(2):372-387. doi:10.1210/clinem/dgaa855

  3. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Glycogen storage disease (GSD).

  4. MedlinePlus. Metabolic syndrome.

  5. American Diabetes Association. Hyperglycemia (high blood glucose).

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Metabolic syndrome prevalence by race/ethnicity and sex in the United States, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-2012.

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

  8. Stanford School of Medicine Children’s Health. Common symptoms of liver disease.

  9. National Kidney Foundation. Hydronephrosis.

  10. MedlinePlus. Lactic acidosis.

  11. MedlinePlus. Uric acid test.

  12. Cedars-Sinai. High cholesterol.

  13. National Insitutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What is metabolic syndrome?

  14. Kalra S, Mukherjee JJ, Venkataraman S, et al. Hypoglycemia: the neglected complicationIndian J Endocrinol Metab. 2013;17(5):819-834. doi:10.4103/2230-8210.117219

Additional Reading

By Adrienne Dellwo
Adrienne Dellwo is an experienced journalist who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and has written extensively on the topic.