What is polydipsia?
Polydipsia is a medical term given for extreme thirstiness. It is said to be one of the initial symptoms of diabetes. Polydipsia is also accompanied by either temporary or constant dryness in the mouth. It is very important to consume adequate amounts of water in a day, so that the body can function properly, which would include regulating the body’s temperature as well as removing any kind of toxic waste buildup from the body.
However, an issue arises when an individual feels thirsty all the time or one's thirst becomes quite stronger than usual even after consuming water. It is a sign that something is not right inside the body and that it needs serious attention.
Causes of Excessive Thirst
Below are few of the causes of polydipsia:
Polydipsia is known to be one of the common signs of either an early or uncontrolled diabetes mellitus. Cells need glucose for energy, and insulin acts as a key that enables glucose to enter the cells. However, with this form of diabetes, high levels of glucose in the blood tend to pull out the water from the cells. As a result, individuals with diabetes tend to frequently urinate, which leads to cases of dehydration and thirstiness.
Some of the common symptoms of diabetes mellitus are:
- Blurry vision
- Genital itching
- Polydipsia (excessive thirst)
- Weight changes (gaining or losing weight)
- Polyuria (excessive urination)
- Polyphagia (excessive hunger)
- Frequent or recurrent infections
- Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
- Lack of energy or fatigue
- Slow wound healing
Below are some of the causes of polydipsia in detail:
Having diabetes increases the risk of dehydration in the body, especially if the condition is undiagnosed. When the sugar levels in the blood abnormally rise, the body pressures the kidneys to produce more amount of urine to get rid of the excess glucose in the body. Hence, frequent urination is another symptom, which ultimately leads to feeling thirsty. Thirstiness then leads to excessive drinking of fluids.
A blood glucose test is recommended for those individuals who have experienced or are experiencing excessive thirst and frequent urination along with other kinds of symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, irritability, and fatigue. These symptoms all point toward the chances of having diabetes.
2. Diabetes insipidus
It is important to note that diabetes insipidus is not related to diabetes mellitus or diabetes. However, they do share common signs and symptoms such as frequent urination and dehydration.
The main characteristic of diabetes insipidus is that there is a hormonal imbalance in the body, which leads to water absorption. Since the individual ends up losing a lot of water through urination, thirst is known to strike back to the body to compensate for the lost fluids.
There are several types of diabetes insipidus, which can be due to a variety of conditions. The doctor would carry out a variety of tests to determine the best treatment option for a patient's specific condition.
3. Menstrual cycle
During menstrual periods, females may feel like continuously drinking water, which is usually normal. The reason behind it is that the levels of estrogen and progesterone tend to impact the volume of fluid in the body along with an additional blood loss due to the menstrual cycle, especially for those who have heavy periods.
The ultimate result is an increase in thirst. Thus, it is always better to keep a bottle of water handy for those who have their periods.
Any ongoing or sudden loss of blood due to issues such as heavy periods or any kind of bleeding are common causes of anemia. In such instances, the body loses red blood cells (RBCs) at a faster rate than they can be replaced. It then tries to make up for the loss of fluid by triggering thirst.
According to researchers, one of the common but still an unrecognized cause of heavy periods is hypothyroidism. There are up to 70 percent of people who experience a certain degree of thyroid deficiency, which then translates into the problem of excessive thirst in certain women population.
The doctor can carry out a blood test along with a physical examination to determine if an individual has anemia. Treatment usually depends on the type of anemia diagnosed.
5. Dry mouth
Dryness in the mouth is also medically referred to as xerostomia. This symptom is commonly described as having an excessive thirsty feeling. A reduction in the flow or any kind of change in the composition of the saliva can lead to an abnormal dryness of the mucous membranes present in the mouth. The glands are not able to make enough saliva, so it can lead to certain symptoms such as finding it difficult to chew, having bad breath, and a thick or stringy consistency of the saliva.
In certain cases, dryness in the mouth can be a side effect of certain medications such as prescription medicines, allergy drugs, motion sickness medicine, or medications for dizziness. One should also remember that there are a lot of medical conditions that can lead to dryness in the mouth. Hence, it is advisable to reach out to the doctor if you experience any of these conditions.
6. Low blood pressure
Chronic stress can make the adrenal glands to under function, which can lead to low blood pressure, especially when stress becomes severe. Having low blood pressure can lead to dizziness, anxiety attacks, depression, or extreme thirst.
Thirst is one of the ways of the body to add up more water to the blood in an attempt to raise the blood pressure. The best and the only long-term solution to this problem is to try and avoid any kind of stress. It is inevitable to experience stress, but individuals must learn how to manage and reduce stress levels to avoid harming the body.
There are certain foods that can have a diuretic effect. They can make you feel thirsty since they can make you urinate more often. Few of those diuretic foods are parsley, lemons, beets, melons, and ginger. If these foods are causing you trouble, you can choose other fresh fruits and vegetables to incorporate into your diet. By doing so, you can cover your nutritional base, and at the same time, maintain the level of thirst in your body.
You can also consume fluid-rich food items such as oatmeal or brown rice since they tend to soak up water during the cooking process.
Dehydration happens when the body does not have enough water to properly function. The main symptom of dehydration is thirst. Dehydration can be due to various reasons, which include excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, exercise, or illness.
Aside from feeling thirsty, other symptoms of dehydration include:
- Dry skin, eyes, or mouth
- Decreased urination
- Dark-colored urine
- Tiredness or weakness
People who experience symptoms such as confusion, sluggishness, and dizziness should seek immediate medical attention even if they think that they are not dehydrated.
9. Psychogenic polydipsia
This particular condition is known to occur when individuals have the compulsive need to consume more water as if they are dehydrated even though they are not. Usually, individuals who have this condition do not have other forms of medical conditions to explain the need for their thirst. Psychogenic polydipsia is known to occur in certain psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder.
Other mental-related disorders would also have similar types of symptoms. Certain mental health medications can also lead to an increased thirst. There are two different terms used to describe this condition, and they are “self-induced water intoxication” and “compulsive water drinking”. Even though the term "water" has been used, an individual may seek out other fluids as well.
Treatment is usually based on the underlying cause of polydipsia.
- Diabetes - Individuals who have diabetes need to manage their blood sugar levels.
- Diabetes insipidus - Doctors may prescribe hormones or certain medications.
- Psychogenic polydipsia - Treatment usually includes medications, counseling, and limiting fluid intake.
When to See a Doctor
Any individual who is suffering from polydipsia should seek medical help to have a proper diagnosis and to rule out other conditions. Individuals who have diabetes mellitus need to monitor their blood sugar levels. If their blood sugar level is high and they are also experiencing polyuria along with uncontrolled hunger pangs, then the most likely cause out here is an uncontrolled diabetes mellitus. However, it is still important to inform the doctor about your symptoms along with any history of excessive thirst, if possible.
The doctor may also ask for blood and urine tests to check your blood sugar levels and to help identify whether your symptoms are due to diabetes mellitus. The HbA1c test can help measure your blood sugar level over the past three months. It can be also used to diagnose diabetes mellitus.
In the case of pregnant women, the doctor can order for an oral glucose tolerance test. In certain cases, drugs or medications can also lead to polydipsia or polyuria. For this reason, individuals should first list down all of their medications before they visit the doctor.
It would be difficult for the doctor to carry out an accurate diagnosis to check the presence of psychogenic polydipsia. Family members, friends, and caregivers would need to keep watch on all the fluids consumed by the individual. Fluids would not only include water, but they can also include other kinds of drinks such as tea, coffee, juices, etc.
If the doctor would suspect that the individual is suffering from psychogenic polydipsia, then a test for low sodium levels in the blood may be carried out.