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What is potomania, the disease that can lead to death because you drink too much water

Sunday, February 28, is International Rare Disease Day. One of these less common pathologies is potomania, an eating disorder that causes a person to drink large amounts of fluids, including water. It is the disease that could be the cause of death of a man who died on February 22 in Gironde, a region in southwestern France. An investigation has been opened, and the autopsy is to determine the exact cause of death.

Excessive thirst (polydipsia) can sometimes signal metabolic disorders, such as diabetes or inspid diabetes. The patient has the feeling that no matter how much he drinks, he is not saturated and the feeling of thirst is still present. It can also occur in case of infections, hemorrhages, fluid loss from the body. The cause here is a physiological need.

Instead, potomania is a psychogenic eating disorder characterized by the constant need to ingest large amounts of available beverages, often simply water, not necessarily alcohol. Therefore, potomania is characterized by an unhealthy need to drink, a need that comes from a mental background.

The person can drink up to 15 liters of fluid a day . Obviously, this will also lead to polyuria, ie an increase in the volume of urine compared to the usual average, which can be dangerous for the kidneys .

Another consequence is a decrease in the concentration of salt in the blood , which causes nausea, vomiting, headaches and even behavioral disorders.

Neurological problems, such as cerebral edema , are not excluded . 

What causes potomania?

The causes of this pathology can be multiple: disturbances in the functioning of the brain centers that regulate thirst, neurosis and childhood psychosis, schizophrenia and dementia, other neurological disorders. 

Potomania can also occur in some people who suffer from bulimia and who prefer to drink water instead of eating.

In some cases of alcoholism, potomania may occur for a few weeks after withdrawal. 

But detecting this disease is not easy. Patients’ behavior is generally discreet and can go unnoticed compared to other eating disorders such as bulimia. 

Very rarely do patients go to the doctor aware that they need a consultation for this condition itself. Potomania is most often diagnosed as a result of the medical consequences it causes. And the only possible long-term treatment is psychiatric therapy. 

Of course, the question is what is the body’s daily need for water? We are often advised to drink at least 2 liters of fluids a day. Usually, the calculation is made according to body weight, but when we talk about fluids we must take into account all foods that contain water and are consumed for a day. 

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