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Beer Potomania: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

February 26, 2019

Beer potomania is a condition when sodium levels in the blood drop dangerously as a result of binge drinking. Getting help with an addiction to alcohol can help prevent this condition.

‘Poto’ means drinking and ‘mania’ means excessively, so potomania literally means ingesting alcohol excessively. In the case of beer potomania, it is a beer that is being drunk. In the medical world, potomania is defined as a condition when sodium levels in the blood drop due to too much alcohol in the system.

It’s important to know that not everyone who drinks beer will experience this condition. Beer’s high ratio of water and low ratio of sodium is what causes problems. This can trigger someone who is high-risk for potomania, especially if their daily sodium intake is on the lower side.

Potomania induced by beer is sometimes referred to as beer drinker’s hyponatremia. This condition is the correct medical reference for low levels of sodium in the blood. When hyponatremia occurs as a result of beer, it is referred to as dilutional hyponatremia due to the dilution of sodium by beer.

Hyponatremia is more common among chronic alcoholics and can come as a result of alcohol-related conditions such as congestive heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver, and hypovolemia.

What Causes Beer Potomania?

Beer potomania is typically caused by a combination of regularly binge drinking and lack of proper eating and nourishment. This can result in a condition known as hyponatremia, which is extremely low sodium levels in the blood.

Sodium helps to balance the water in the body, which is important to a number of bodily functions. While most people get sufficient sodium from their diet, not eating or binge drinking can result in a drop in sodium levels.

Many bodily functions and organs rely on sodium to work properly. The kidneys require sufficient sodium to clear fluids from the body. Without enough sodium, fluid can build up in the blood and cause cells to swell, including cells in the brain.

Swollen cells in the brain and other parts of the body result in symptoms of potomania.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Beer Potomania?

The symptoms of beer potomania can come on after binge drinking beer as well as partaking in poor nutrition. The most common symptoms of potomania include weakness and gait disturbance as well as an altered mental state.

Other symptoms of beer potomania include:

  • headaches
  • seizures
  • extreme fatigue
  • muscle cramps and weakness
  • restlessness
  • irritability
  • confusion
  • vomiting
  • upset stomach

Treatment For Beer Potomania

People who are at high risk for beer potomania are those who drink excess amounts of beer and do not get enough sodium in their diet. This can be especially true for individuals who have stopped eating, which is common among those who abuse alcohol.

While treating potomania may seem as simple as giving someone sodium, this can actually be risky. Quickly elevating sodium levels in the body can have a negative impact on neurological functions.

This can result in a condition known as osmotic demyelination syndrome (ODS), which can cause severe mental impairment and even coma. Most doctors will administer sodium over the course of 48 hours to avoid causing ODS.

Seeking Help For Alcohol Addiction

Beer potomania can be avoided by practicing good nutrition and limiting the intake of alcohol. If you or a loved one is suffering with an addiction to alcohol, getting help can help prevent serious conditions such as beer potomania.

Problem drinking“, or in its more serious form Alcohol Use Disorder, is often first treated with a medically supervised detox program. This is to ensure that withdrawal symptoms are managed and that patients are as comfortable as possible. Once a medically monitored detox program is complete, many people will continue onto a formal addiction treatment program such as an inpatient treatment program.

Inpatient treatment programs for alcohol addiction require individuals to live residentially at a rehab facility for several weeks or months. During this time, patients undergo intensive treatment for overcoming alcohol addiction.

To learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of beer potomania, contact our treatment specialists today.

The Permanente Journal - Beer Potomania—An Unusual Cause of Hyponatremia

Clinician Reviews - Hyponatremia: Beer Potomania

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