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Int J Psychiatry Med. 1994;24(4):275-303.

The consulting psychiatrist and the polydipsia-hyponatremia syndrome in schizophrenia.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Medical College of Virginia, Richmond 23298-0710, USA.



The authors seek to extend understanding and treatment of hospitalized schizophrenics presenting with complications of polydipsia and dilutional hyponatremia. Attending physicians may ask the consultation/liaison psychiatrist to see schizophrenics with hyponatremically-induced delirium or other psychiatric syndromes. The referring physician may or may not have identified polydipsia and dilutional hyponatremia and their complications. This article will help the consultation/liaison psychiatrist recognize early evidence of water imbalance, describe evaluation, and provide somatic and behavioral treatment approaches to this life-threatening syndrome.


Over the past ten years, the authors have treated more than 100 patients with the polydipsia-hyponatremia syndrome. The authors discuss their and others' experience with drugs that help and hinder patients suffering from dilutional hyponatremia. They review current key articles from the polydipsia-hyponatremia syndrome literature including articles identified via Medline search 1985-94.


Schizophrenics with the polydipsia-hyponatremia syndrome most commonly present with polydipsia, polyuria, urinary incontinence, cognitive, affective, and behavioral changes, seizures, or coma. Quantitating polydipsia, hyponatremia, and diurnal changes in body weight facilitate therapeutic interventions. Treatment include patient and caregiver education, drug therapies to better treat psychosis and better treat osmotic dysregulation, behavioral interventions to interdict polydipsia, and diurnal weight monitoring.


Once recognized, acute, subacute, and chronic complications of the polydipsia-hyponatremia syndrome are readily treatable. Besides treating the patient, consultation/liaison psychiatrists can teach their medical colleagues about this syndrome. In so doing, they will enhance the quality of their patients' lives and help the internist and surgeon feel more comfortable when working with schizophrenics.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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