What causes excessive thirst? 25 possible conditions

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Excessive Thirst

Your body needs water to function properly. For example, water helps to regulate your body temperature, lubricate your joints, and remove waste from your body. Adequate daily water intake is very important. Furthermore, it is important to increase your usual water intake when you are ill, exposed to hot temperatures, or engaged in physical activities.

However, if your thirst is stronger than usual and continues even after you drink, seek medical help immediately—especially if your thirst is accompanied by blurred vision and fatigue.

Causes of Excessive Thirst

It is normal to feel thirsty after eating salty or spicy foods, or after engaging in strenuous exercise or sporting events, especially when it is hot. You may also feel thirsty when you suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, burns, or a significant loss of blood. Some prescription medications also cause thirst.

Frequent excessive thirst and/or thirst that won’t be quenched can be symptoms of serious medical conditions, such as:

  • dehydration: Dehydration occurs when you lack the proper amount of fluids for your body to function properly. Severe dehydration is life threatening, especially for infants and young children. Dehydration can be caused by illness, profuse sweating, too much urine output, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • diabetes: Excessive thirst can be caused by high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), and is often one of the first noticeable symptoms of diabetes.
  • diabetes insipidus: With this form of diabetes, your kidneys are unable to conserve water, leading to excessive thirst.
  • dipsogenic diabetes insipidus: This condition is due to a defect in the thirst mechanism, causing excessive thirst and excessive urine output.
  • heart, liver, or kidney failure
  • psychogenic polydipsia: This is a psychiatric disorder that causes people to drink too much.
  • sepsis: This is a dangerous illness caused by a severe reaction to bacteria or other germs.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Thirst is your body’s way of telling you that it is low on fluids. In normal circumstances, you should be able to quench your thirst fairly quickly. However, if your urge to drink remains constant, or does not go away after you drink, it may be a sign of a serious health problem, especially if combined with other symptoms. This constant urge to drink could also be a psychological problem.

Consult with your doctor if:

  • thirst is persistent, regardless of how much you drink
  • you also have blurry vision, excessive hunger, or cuts or sores that do not heal
  • you are also fatigued
  • you are urinating more than five quarts a day

Diagnosing Excessive Thirst

To help diagnose the reason for your excessive, unresolved thirst, your doctor will ask you for a complete medical history, including any previously diagnosed conditions. Be prepared to list all of your prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements. Some questions your doctor may ask include:

  • How long have you been aware of your symptoms?
  • Are you also urinating more than usual?
  • Did your symptoms begin slowly or suddenly?
  • Does your thirst increase or decrease during certain times of the day?
  • Have you made dietary or other lifestyle changes?
  • Has your appetite for food been affected?
  • Have you gained or lost weight?
  • Have you recently had an injury or burn?
  • Are you experiencing any bleeding or swelling?
  • Have you had a fever?
  • Have you been perspiring heavily?

In addition to a physical exam, your doctor may order blood and urine tests to help provide a diagnosis. These tests may include:

  • blood glucose test
  • blood count and blood differential tests
  • urinalysis and urine osmolality tests
  • serum calcium, osmolality, and sodium tests

Depending on the test results, your doctor may refer you to a specialist.

Treating Excessive Thirst

Treatment and prognosis will depend on the diagnosis.

How Much Fluid Do You Normally Need?

To remain healthy, you need to drink fluid regularly throughout the day. You can increase your water intake by also eating water-rich foods, such as celery, watermelon, tomatoes, oranges, and melons.  A good rule of thumb to know if you are getting enough fluids is to check your urine.  If it is light in color, high in volume, and does not have a heavy smell, you are probably getting enough fluid. 

Every organ, tissue, and cell in your body needs water. Water helps your body to:

  • maintain a normal temperature
  • lubricate and cushion your joints
  • protect the spinal cord
  • rid your body of waste through perspiration, urination, and bowel movements

You need to take in extra fluids when you:

  • are outdoors in hot weather
  • are engaging in a rigorous activity
  • have diarrhea
  • are vomiting
  • have a fever

If you fail to replenish the fluids you lose and fail to respond to your thirst by drinking fluids, you can become dehydrated.

Risks of Excessive Thirst: Overhydration

When you try to quench excessive thirst, it is possible to drink too much. Taking in more water than you expel is called overhydration, a condition that can occur when you have kidney, liver, or heart disorders or drink too much liquid to compensate for fluid loss. Overhydration can cause confusion and seizures.

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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.

1

Diabetes Overview

Diabetes is a group of chronic metabolic diseases caused by defects in insulin production or function. Advanced diabetes may cause stomach pain, nausea, dizziness, and cramps.

Read more »

2

Heat Emergencies

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Heat emergencies are health crises caused by exposure to hot weather and sun. Heat emergencies have three stages: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. All three stages are serious.

Read more »

3

Type 2 Diabetes Overview

Type 2 diabetes is a common chronic metabolic disease that leads to abnormally high levels of blood sugar in the blood. This blood sugar is also referred to as glucose.

Read more »

4

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease that result high levels of glucose in the blood due to a lack of insulin production. Glucose is a natural sugar that your body uses as a source of energy.

Read more »

5

Dehydration

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluid than you drink. The most common cause of water loss from the body is excessive sweating. Headaches, dizziness, and decreased urination are symptoms.

Read more »

6

Low Blood Potassium

Hypokalemia occurs when the blood's potassium levels are too low. A normal level of potassium is 3.6-5.2 millimoles per liter. Levels below 3.6 are considered low.

Read more »

7

Hypercalcemia

Hypercalcemia is a condition in which you have too much calcium in your blood. Serious cases could cause symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, and weakness.

Read more »

8

Diabetes Insipidus

Diabetes insipidus (DI) is a rare condition that occurs when your kidneys are not able to conserve water. It results in extreme thirst for water and frequent urination. There are several types of DI, and they can ofte...

Read more »

9

Kidney Failure

Kidney failure occurs when the kidneys lose the ability to sufficiently filter waste from the blood. Many factors can interfere with kidney health and function, such as toxic exposure to environmental pollutants an...

Read more »

10

Alcoholic Liver Disease

Damage to the liver from excessive drinking can lead to ALD. Years of alcohol abuse cause the liver to become inflamed and swollen. This damage can also cause scarring known as cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is the final stage o...

Read more »

11

Cushing Syndrome

Cushing syndrome is when your body has abnormally high levels of a hormone called cortisol. This can happen for a variety of reasons, the most common of which is overuse of corticosteroid medications.Symptoms include ...

Read more »

12

Hyperparathyroidism

Hyperparathyroidism occurs when the parathyroid glands make too much parathyroid hormone (PTH). The parathyroid glands are four pea-sized endocrine glands located in your neck, near or attached to the back of you...

Read more »

13

Alcoholic Liver Cirrhosis

Drinking too much alcohol can harm the liver. It can result in a serious disease known as ALC (ALC). The liver in the organ in your body that is responsible for the breakdown of harmful toxins like alcohol. It als...

Read more »

14

Snake Bites

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

According to the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University, about 5,000 snake bite cases are reported every year in the U.S.

Read more »

15

Peritonitis

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

You have a thin layer of tissue covering the inside of your abdomen and most of its organs. This is called the peritoneum . Inflammation of the peritoneum is called peritonitis. The inflammation is caused by a fungal o...

Read more »

16

Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disease of the red blood cells (RBCs). Normally RBCs are shaped like a disk. This gives them the flexibility to travel through even the smallest blood vessels. However, in people wit...

Read more »

17

Chronic Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) causes destruction of the kidneys. It is progressive and irreversible.Your kidneys are an essential part of your body. They have a number of functions: help maintain the balance of mineral...

Read more »

18

Gestational Diabetes

During pregnancy, some women develop high levels of blood sugar, a condition known as gestational diabetes, or gestational diabetes mellitus. GDM typically occurs around your 24th week of pregnancy. According to th...

Read more »

19

Bleeding Esophageal Varices

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Bleeding esophageal varices occur when swollen veins (varices) in your lower esophagus, the muscular tube that connects your mouth with your stomach, rupture and bleed due to excess pressure. This condition constitute...

Read more »

20

Dissection of the Aorta

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

The aorta is a large artery that carries blood out of your heart. If you experience a dissection of the aorta, it means that blood has entered the wall of the artery, between the inner and middle layers. This can happe...

Read more »

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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