Beer potomania syndrome

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A constellation of electrolyte abnormalities that occur secondary to the over consumption of liquid that is electrolyte poor coupled with little other sources of nutrition. The poor overall electrolyte intake limits the formation of a normal renal urea gradient which cause an inability to excrete sufficient free water. Patients may actually be total-body sodium depleted, yet have elevated urinary sodium and fractional sodium excretion due to this disorder of water metabolism. Attention to proper nutrition during the acute illness may obviate the need for potentially hazardous administration of hypertonic saline


  • a history of chronic alcohol ingestion (in a hypotonic form)
  • protein malnutrition
  • signs, symptoms and laboratory values consistent with water intoxication, including hyponatraemia, hypochloraemia and, usually, hypokalaemia
  • no evidence of another cause of hyponatraemia such as steroid use, diuretic use, hyperlipidaemia, etc.


  • Chem 10
  • Osmolality
  • ADH

Differential Diagnosis


  • If seizing or other severe symptoms, use hypertonic saline
  • Otherwise gentle replacement of electrolytes with close attention paid to diet is important


Admit patient with:

See Also


  • Va Med. 1989 Jun;116(6):270-1. Beer potomania syndrome in an alcoholic. Harrow AS.