Excessive thirst is one of the first clues that you might have diabetes. It’s a result of the blood sugar imbalance caused by the condition. Learn how to recognize diabetes thirst and get rid of it, too.

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Photography by Aya Brackett

Polydipsia, or excessive thirst, is a hallmark of diabetes. Thirst is linked to another common diabetes symptom: polyuria or urinating more than usual.

It’s typical to feel thirsty when you’re dehydrated. This can happen because:

  • you’re not drinking enough water
  • you’re sweating too much
  • you’ve eaten something very salty or spicy

But unmanaged diabetes can make you feel parched all the time without any reason.

This article details why you feel so thirsty when you have diabetes. We also look at how to treat excessive thirst in diabetes. With the right daily medical treatment and care, you can prevent or reduce this symptom.

Excessive thirst is one of the first signs you might have diabetes. Thirst and having to urinate more frequently than your baseline are caused by too much sugar (glucose) in your blood.

When you have diabetes, your body can’t use sugars from food properly. This causes sugar to collect in your blood. High blood sugar levels force your kidneys to go into overdrive to get rid of the extra sugar.

The kidneys need to make more urine to help pass extra sugar from your body. You’ll likely have to urinate more and have a higher volume of urine.

This uses up more of the water in your body. Water is even pulled from your tissues to help get rid of the extra sugar. Because you’re losing lots of water, you can feel very thirsty.

Your brain will tell you to drink more water to hydrate. In turn, this triggers more urination. The diabetes urine and thirst cycle will continue if your blood sugar levels are left unbalanced.

There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. All types of diabetes are chronic conditions that can affect how your body uses sugars. Sugar is the fuel your body needs to power every single one of its functions.

Glucose from food must get into your cells where it can be burned for energy. The only way to carry glucose into the cells is via the hormone insulin. Without insulin to transport it, glucose stays in your blood.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that stops your body from making insulin. This type of diabetes can affect people of any age, including children.

Type 2 diabetes is more common than type 1 and usually affects adults. If you have type 2 diabetes, your body can still make insulin. You may not make enough insulin, though, or your body may not be able to use it properly. This is called insulin resistance.

Excessive thirst and frequent urination can happen in type 1 and type 2 diabetes. You may also have other symptoms. Both types can cause similar symptoms if they’re not treated and managed.

Diabetes symptoms include:

People with type 2 diabetes may not have any symptoms for many years. Symptoms may be mild and get worse slowly.

Type 1 diabetes causes symptoms quickly, sometimes in only a few weeks. Symptoms may be severe.

Currently, there’s no cure for diabetes.

If you have type 1 diabetes, you’ll need insulin infusions or injections. You may also need to take other medications.

Treatment for type 2 diabetes includes medications that help your body make more insulin or use insulin better. You may need to take insulin, too.

You may also be able to manage type 2 diabetes with a strict diet, regular exercise, and no medications at all. However, diabetes is a progressive disease, and you may require medications later in life.

Treating diabetes means balancing your blood sugar levels. Managing your diabetes keeps your sugar levels as stable as possible. This means they don’t go too high or too low. Balancing blood sugar levels will help to reduce or prevent excess thirst.

Along with the right daily diet and exercise, you may need to take one or more diabetes medications.

Metformin (Fortamet, Glumetza) is the first-line treatment. It belongs to a class of drugs known as biguanides.

Other classes of medications can be taken along with metformin, including:

  • glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 receptor agonists)
  • sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 inhibitors (SGLT2 inhibitors)
  • sulfonylureas
  • thiazolidinediones

Your doctor can help you manage your diabetes. Be sure to:

Along with medications, practicing a healthy lifestyle is another key to managing your diabetes.

Self-care is as important as care from a doctor. This includes a daily diet and exercise plan. Talk with a doctor or nutritionist about the best diet plan for you.

Also, consider these lifestyle tips for diabetes:

  • Use a home monitor to track your blood sugar levels before and after every meal.
  • Keep a journal with a record of your daily blood sugar levels.
  • Make a daily diet plan for each week.
  • Eat balanced meals, with an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Add plenty of fiber to your diet.
  • Schedule time for exercise every day.
  • Track your steps to ensure you’re walking enough every day.
  • If you can, consider joining a gym or getting a fitness buddy to motivate you to exercise more.
  • Maintain a moderate weight.
  • Record any symptoms you have.

The best glucose monitors and meters

Check out our picks for the best glucose monitors and meters you can use at home.

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If you experience excessive thirst or other symptoms, you may have diabetes, or your diabetes may not be well-managed.

Ask a doctor to give you a blood test for diabetes.

Some diabetes blood tests will require fasting for at least 8 hours beforehand. For this reason, it’s often best to schedule your appointment first thing in the morning.

Fasting tests include the fasting blood glucose test and the oral glucose tolerance test. The fasting blood glucose test can be performed on its own or as part of the oral glucose tolerance test.

Nonfasting blood tests include the hemoglobin A1c test.

Excessive thirst may be a symptom of diabetes. Treating and maintaining diabetes can prevent or reduce this symptom as well as others.

Living with diabetes requires extra attention to your health, especially your daily diet and exercise regimen. You may also need to take medications and time them appropriately.

If you’ve already received a diabetes diagnosis, don’t ignore excessive thirst or any other diabetes symptoms. Instead, see your doctor for regular checkups. Your doctor may change your diabetes medications or treatment as needed.

With the right medical care and lifestyle changes, you can be healthier than ever.