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5 Common Causes Of Excessive Thirst Or Polydipsia

polydipsia or excessive thirst

A glass of water is not enough to quench thirst when the sun is hot!

A spicy meal can make you drink more than a glass of water!

A strenuous workout is never complete without sipping some water in between!

It’s quite common to feel quite thirsty when out in the hot sun or after a workout routine. However, in some cases, drinking a glass or two of water fails to subside the urge which should not be ignored. This is because excessive thirst or drinking water constantly can be a sign of an underlying health problem. Here are some of the common causes of excessive thirst, which is also known as polydipsia.

What Causes Excessive Thirst (Polydipsia)?

Some of the common causes of excessive thirst include eating salty or spicy foods, exercise, vomiting, diarrhea, burns, hot weather, illness, and certain medications such as diuretics. However, frequent thirst or excessive thirst could be a symptom of a serious health condition such as:

Dehydration: It is a condition which indicates that the body lacks significant amounts of water. As a result, the normal day-to-day processes are affected. Severe dehydration can affect the functioning of major organs such as the kidneys, heart, and brain. If left unattended, it can also lead to death, especially in children.

Dehydration can be caused due to various reasons such as exposure to heat waves, strenuous exercise, profound vomiting, excessive sweating or frequent urination. Some of the common signs of dehydration in addition to excessive thirst or polydipsia include dark-colored urine, dry mouth, dry skin, headache, and feeling lightheaded.

Diabetes: Polydipsia or excessive thirst is one of the common symptoms of diabetes. It is often the first noticeable but most ignored symptom of diabetes mellitus. In people suffering from diabetes, the pancreas, which produces the hormone insulin, either fails to make enough insulin to meet the body’s requirement or the body fails to utilize the insulin produced by the pancreas. As a result, there is an excess of glucose in the body which causes high levels of glucose to circulate in the blood and urine.

An excess of glucose in the urine draws more water to maintain the concentration of glucose in the body. As more water is absorbed, you tend to pee more often. Frequent urination causes loss of water from the body and in turn makes you thirsty to replenish the lost water. Not just excessive thirst and urination, diabetes can also lead to excessive fatigue, excessive hunger, blurry vision and slowed healing of cuts and bruises.

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Diabetes Insipidus: Diabetes insipidus is often mistaken with diabetes mellitus or high blood glucose due to its name. However, both the conditions are different. Diabetes insipidus is a rare condition which is characterized by extreme thirst and frequent urination (dilute and odorless urine). Polydipsia is one of the major symptoms of diabetes insipidus along with dehydration.

It is a condition in which the fluid regulation by the kidneys is impaired.  The hypothalamus, part of our brain, produce a hormone known as antidiuretic hormone (ADH) which helps in regulating the fluid balance in the body. But in people suffering from diabetes insipidus, fluid regulation is impaired as the body fails to produce enough hormone to meet the requirement. As the fluid balance is affected, an excess amount of water is pulled by the kidneys which in turn is excreted through urine and makes you feel thirsty.

Dry Mouth: Polydipsia is one of the common symptoms of dry mouth. Your mouth might become dry when the glands in the mouth that produce saliva fail to function properly. Dryness in the mouth can be caused by tobacco, nervousness, anxiety, and breathing with your mouth open (especially when sleeping). The other factors that might lead to dry mouth include certain medications, damage of the nerves in the head or neck region and cancer treatment.  

Some of the common symptoms that might indicate dry mouth in addition to polydipsia are bad breath, changes in taste, irritated gums, thick saliva, and trouble chewing. Staying hydrated might fail to improve the symptoms as it is important to treat the root cause of the condition. So consulting a doctor might be a good idea to know the cause and get it treated.

Anemia: According to the US National Health, Lung and Blood Institute, severe anemia might lead to excessive thirst. Anemia is a condition in which there are low levels of healthy red blood cells due to the production of defective red blood cells. This, in turn, causes a lack of oxygen to various organs of the body. It also causes loss of fluids from the body which is the reason why severe cases of anemia lead to polydipsia.

Anemia can be caused due to a lack of iron or Vitamin B 12 in the body. The common factors that increase the risk of anemia include poor diet, heavy bleeding, or certain diseases. The signs and symptoms of anemia include dizziness, feeling tired, sweating and pale face/skin. If you experience any of these signs it is wise to consult a doctor at the earliest.

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Polydipsia might not always be treated by simply replenishing your body with lost water. It might also be a sign of a serious health complication which needs to be taken care of. Hence, consult a doctor to know the cause of excessive thirst and treat it immediately.

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)

Recommended Reads:

7 Effective Ways To Prevent Dehydration This Summer Season

Suffering From Dry Mouth? You Should Not Ignore It

References:

1. Popkin BM, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, hydration, and health. Nutr Rev. 2010 Aug;68(8):439-58.

2. Leib DE, Zimmerman CA, Knight ZA. Thirst. Curr Biol. 2016;26(24):R1260-R1265. 

3. Your Guide to Anemia. National Institutes of Health. 

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