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There are 20 possible causes of excessive thirst

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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 (several glasses) is very important. Furthermore, it is normal (and essential) 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.

Excessive and/or lingering thirst can signal a variety of serious conditions, including diabetes, dehydration, and kidney failure.

Causes of Excessive Thirst

It is normal to feel very thirsty after eating salty or spicy foods, or after engaging in strenuous exercise or sporting events. 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 a serious medical condition, 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 the first noticeable symptom of diabetes.
  • diabetes insipidus: With this form of diabetes, your kidneys are unable to conserve water.
  • 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
  • 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 level 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 with your meals and when you feel thirsty—several glasses a day. You can increase your water intake by also eating water-rich foods, such as celery, tomatoes, oranges, and melons.

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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Possible Causes - Listed in order from the most common to the least.

1

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.”

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2

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.

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3

Peritonitis

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

Peritonitis is the inflammation of a thin layer of tissue inside the abdomen. Caused by bacteria or fungus, it causes tenderness, bloating, fatigue, greying of the skin, and other problems.

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4

Bleeding Esophageal Varices

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

Bleeding esophageal varices occur when swollen veins in your lower esophagus rupture and bleed due to excess pressure. This condition is a medical emergency and must be dealt with promptly.

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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.

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6

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...

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7

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.

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8

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.

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9

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.

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10

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...

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11

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...

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12

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. If left untreated, the firs...

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13

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...

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14

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...

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15

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...

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16

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.

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17

Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma

Adrenal cortical carcinoma (ACC) is a rare disease. It is caused by a cancerous growth in the adrenal cortex, which is the outer layer of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands lie on top of the kidneys. They play a...

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18

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 ...

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19

Medullary Cystic Disease

Medullary cystic kidney disease (MCKD) is a rare condition in which small, fluid-filled sacs called cysts form in the center of the kidneys. These cysts scar the kidneys and cause them to malfunction. In order t...

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20

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...

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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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