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What is the potomania?

The potomania is an unspecified eating disorder (TANE) which is defined as the desire of drinking large amounts of liquid, usually water, compulsively and without having a prior sense of thirst. It is also called psychogenic polydipsia.
This massive intake provides to the person concerned a pleasurable sensation, so it can reach eating between 8 and 15 liters of water, depending on the severity of the case.
Drinking more than two or three liters of water a day is beneficial for the body and is harmful to health, because it can alter the functioning of the kidneys and the composition of the blood (which must contain 8% water), and endangers the balance of fluids and electrolytes in the body.

Causes of the potomania

The hypothalamus is a brain region that, among other functions, is responsible for keeping the amount of water needed for the organism and warn the lack of liquid emitting the signal of thirst. An alteration in the mechanism of operation of the hypothalamus could cause episodes of potomania (neurological potomania), but experts agree that this is extremely strange, by which associated with an imbalance psychiatric disorder and that, in general, eating disorders are associated with psychological problems and personality disorders.
There are several risk factors that may influence the onset of this disorder:
  • Certain mental illnesses, such as personality disorders, delusional pictures and hysterical symptoms.
  • Chronic kidney disease.
  • Organic disorders or hormonal conditions (such as diabetes mellitus, one of whose symptoms is, precisely, excess thirst or polydipsia).
  • Suffering from anorexia nervosa. In this case the affected drinks plenty of water, with the aim of satiated without ingesting calories, either to increase body weight just prior to attending the specialist to weigh yourself, and thus mislead the professional.
  • Use of medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, thiazide diuretic, and lithium, which interfere with the function of the kidney, and anticholinergic drugs, causing dry mouth, among others.
  • Alterations in the functioning of the hypothalamus.

Symptoms of the potomania

The human body tries to maintain a constant volume of water and the concentration of electrolytes necessary for the proper functioning of all its organs. Thus, when the level of sodium is high, the body retains more water to dilute the excess and the feeling of thirst, is increased at the same time decreasing the need to urinate. Conversely, when the level of sodium is insufficient, the organism excreted more water to restore the balance.
A healthy person needs around two litres or two-liter and a half of water a day, that you can get both ingested liquid and food you eat: fruits and vegetables are foods with more water in its composition, so a diet rich in these products already brings a good dose of water required.
Excess fluids does not usually cause hyperhydration (over hydration) when the kidneys, pituitary gland and heart working properly because the Agency is responsible for excess, but frequent and prolonged episodes of potomania can ALTER renal function and the equilibrium of the internal fluids, and cause symptoms such as:
  • Muscle cramps and fatigue as a result of the dilution of sodium and potassium in the blood.
  • Nausea.
  • Headache.
  • Hyponatremia (low blood sodium concentration), that seriously affects the functioning of the brain.
  • Paralysis.
  • Congestive heart failure. The lack of potassium (a mineral which is excreted in the urine) can change the rhythm of the heart muscle.
  • Loss of mental agility.
  • Profound drowsiness and prolonged (lethargy).
  • Seizures.
  • Coma and death.

Diagnosis of the potomania

The potomania is usually the sign of a psychological disorder that must be treated as soon as it is detected. It is common, in addition, that this eating disorder is associated with other disorders of the same spectrum as bulimia and, especially, anorexia, so the affected health may be seriously compromised if it does not intervene as soon as possible.
The kidneys are able to eliminate between 600 to 840 ml/hour, so you should not exceed this limit, although in times of heat or when performing lots of physical activity or sport, fluid intake needs increase.
When a person ingests more than four liters of water a day for no apparent reason, and especially if it surpasses the six litres, you must see a doctor without waiting for the symptoms described in the previous section. Once ruled out that there is an organic problem as an alteration in the hypothalamus or diabetes mellitus, the physician will result the patient to the specialized care required, usually a psychologist, psychiatrist, or nutritionist specializing in eating disorders.

Treatment and prevention of the potomania

To treat the potomania, initially may be given diuretics to the patient, serving to increase the excretion of fluid by the kidneys, which contributes to increasing the level of sodium and to alleviate the symptoms. However, to eradicate the problem treatment must be different depending on the cause that has resulted, although usually begin by restricting fluid intake to no more than a litre and daily average.
In the event that it occurs because of mental illness, the treatment should be psychotherapy, accompanied in some cases by psychotropic medication. This medication that acts on the central nervous system, characterized by alter perception, mood, the State of consciousness and the behavior of the patient for a period of time.
If disorder appears as a result of the use of drugs, they must be replaced by other medicines that do not cause this side effect.

Prevention of the potomania

In case of not receiving treatment, the disorder can have fatal consequences, since it can cause a picture of shock in the body that results in paralysis and death. The best prevention to avoid their undesirable effects on health is banish misconceptions, favored by misleading advertising, that proclaims that consume water in large quantities is very healthy and promotes weight loss.
Indeed, water is necessary and beneficial for the body, but in perspective. In this sense, mineral water ads should have taken this into account and have warned since the beginning, recommended for a healthy person is drink around two litres of water a day. Fool the stomach-based ingest liquid is not the best way to lose weight, but yes is can lose health, and even life, if this situation intensifies and prolongs.
Therefore, if you feel an unstoppable desire to drink, especially if you are not motivated by thirst, heat or physical activity, you must check as soon as possible with your doctor to find the source of the problem and prevent it to more.
Published for educational purposes
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