Extreme thirst is medically referred to as polydipsia, which is believed to be the first signs of diabetes. Polydipsia can also be accompanied by dry mouth, which could be constantly or temporarily experienced.
In order for the body to function properly, it is important to drink an adequate amount of water daily. However, if an individual still feels thirsty even after consuming water or when there is an excessive thirst, it could be a sign of a health problem that needs medical attention.
A number of causes other than diabetes can contribute to an excessive thirst. It can be as simple as eating a spicy meal, a side effect of taking certain medications or losing a lot of blood due to an accident.
Polydipsia can also be caused by the following:
- Mental disorder
- Physical activities
- Severe burns
When you are dehydrated, your brain sends a signal. It is a kind of warning that the amount of fluid in your body is inadequate. Polydipsia is a condition in which there is an excessive and persistent thirst. It could be minor or severe and often depends on the underlying cause. Let's take a look at some of the causes of polydipsia below:
When the amount of fluid in your body is inadequate, you tend to feel thirsty. The possible reasons could be due to diarrhea, vomiting, or excessive sweating. You can quench your thirst and restore the fluid balance in your body by drinking an adequate amount of water and making sure that you are well hydrated, especially during hot weather, while exercising, and when you are unwell.
Thirst is the main symptom of dehydration. Other symptoms are confusion, nausea, dry skin, decreased urination, sluggishness, headache, dark-colored urine, headache, light-headedness, and weakness. Dehydration can be caused by a number of illnesses, such as diarrhea due to food poisoning, fever caused by infections, and heat exhaustion.
Symptoms such as fatigue, dry mouth, and extreme thirst are experienced when water from the body begins to deplete. Fluid displacement will happen in case of nausea and vomiting, which also lead to severe dehydration. Intravenous fluid needs to be administered if a dehydrated individual is unable to drink water. Dehydration can be life-threatening.
One of the signs of diabetes is feeling thirsty all the time. Aside from an excessive thirst, other signs and symptoms of diabetes are frequent urination, increased appetite, fatigue, and unexplained weight loss. Diabetes is a long-term condition and can cause glucose levels in the body to go out of control.
If the glucose level is high, then it means that more glucose has to be expelled by the kidneys through the urine. To make up for the fluid loss, the brain sends a signal of thirst. You probably need to get yourself tested for diabetes if you feel thirsty all the time and have other symptoms.
The risk of dehydration in the body also increases due to diabetes. This risk particularly increases when the condition remains undiagnosed. Having an excessive thirst also leads to frequent urination.
Pregnant women need more fluids than usual to support the growing baby in their womb, particularly their baby's circulation and amniotic fluid. There are also pregnant women who feel hotter and sweat a lot during pregnancy, leading to an excessive thirst.
However, in some cases, an excessive thirst in pregnant women could also be a sign of gestational diabetes. Unfortunately, most pregnant women with gestational diabetes usually do not have any symptoms, which is why all pregnant women should be tested for it. If you are pregnant and experiences polydipsia, discuss it with your doctor on your next prenatal visit.
Certain medications can cause side effects such as polydipsia. Speak with your doctor if you continue to experience polydipsia while taking such medications. The drug's dosage could be adjusted or another medication could be prescribed.
Diabetes insipidus is due to a problem with vasopressin, which is a hormone that is synthesized in the hypothalamus. It is also known as antidiuretic hormone (ADH).
Vasopressin acts on the blood vessels and kidneys. It also helps prevent the loss of water from the body by decreasing the output of urine as well as helping the kidneys to reabsorb water back into the body. In diabetes insipidus, vasopressin is unable to regulate the body's water level and allows the production of too much urine.
Anemia is a condition wherein the blood does not have sufficient red blood cells (RBCs) to carry enough oxygen to the body's tissues. This condition can be caused by a sudden or ongoing blood loss, such as having a heavy menstrual period or bleeding ulcers and usually causes polydipsia.
An excessive thirst is experienced because the body compensates for the fluid loss, which happens when RBCs are destroyed faster than the body can replace them. If anemia is mild, polydipsia may not be triggered. However, when the condition becomes severe, polydipsia may occur along with sweating, dizziness, weakness, and fatigue.
An individual with dry mouth often consumes more water to relieve the discomfort. Medically known as xerostomia, dry mouth happens when there is not enough saliva produced in the mouth. It can occur due to the intake of certain medications, such as treatment for cancer, autoimmune disorders like Sjogren’s syndrome, smoking, and nerve damage. Other symptoms of dry mouth are:
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Gum irritation
- Thick or stringy saliva
- Difficulty chewing
When Polydipsia Is a Concern
When the hormone insulin is lacking in the body, it gives rise to a dangerous complication of diabetes called diabetic ketoacidosis, which causes an excessive thirst. Seek immediate medical help if you experience polydipsia along with other symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting, frequent urination, confusion, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, and a fruity-odor breath.
Excessive thirst and frequent urination are the classic symptoms of diabetes. When people have diabetes, there is an excessive buildup of glucose in the blood. The kidneys are then forced to excessively work to filter and absorb excess glucose in the blood.
Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited blood disorder, in which there are insufficient healthy RBCs to carry enough oxygen all over the body. Polydipsia and polyuria usually occur as nephropathy develops with this form of anemia.
Stress and Anxiety
A person may excessively drink water due to stress, anxiety, or nervousness. Anxiety can also cause an increase in stomach acid, which then leads to an insufficient production of saliva or dry mouth.
The normal pH level of plasma in the blood gets deviated when there is an acid-base imbalance in the body. Due to this imbalance, a person may feel extremely thirsty. To quench the thirst, people drink an excessive amount of fluid, which then leads to polyuria.
Kidney function is impaired when there is low potassium in the body. This condition leads to polydipsia, which then causes polyuria. Even low blood pressure and constipation can cause polydipsia and polyuria.
Acromegaly is a hormonal disorder characterized by an overproduction of growth hormones. One of the symptoms of acromegaly is polydipsia.
Anorexia is an eating disorder that can also cause polydipsia. People with this condition do not eat properly since they have the fear of gaining weight.
Psychogenic polydipsia is a form of excessive and volitional consumption of water often observed in people with certain psychiatric conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
Increased thirst can also occur due to certain medications used for the treatment of mental health conditions. There are two different terms to describe this condition. The first one is self-induced water intoxication and the second is compulsive water drinking. However, a person may also look for other fluids aside from water.
Low Blood Pressure
The adrenal glands may not properly function due to chronic stress, and when the stress becomes severe, an underactive adrenal gland can cause low blood pressure. An affected individual may develop anxiety attacks, dizziness, depression, or experience an extreme thirst. In an attempt to increase the blood pressure, the body signals thirst so that more water can be added.
When to Seek Medical Advice
People who experience polydipsia should see a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis. Those who have diabetes should also monitor their blood sugar levels if they are continuously experiencing polyphagia (excessive hunger), polydipsia, and polyuria (frequent urination), which are caused by an uncontrolled diabetes mellitus.
Other tests may be ordered by your healthcare provider when diabetes is not the cause or the only cause of polydipsia. Tests include:
- Checking the levels of potassium and sodium in the blood
- Water deprivation test
- Vasopressin levels
- Oral glucose tolerance test in pregnant women
- HbA1c test