Polydipsia – Excessive Thirst: It’s Not A Disease, It’s A Symptom

It is not a disease or disorder, but a symptom of many conditions characterized by an excessive need to drink fluid or excessive thirst.

The excess in the need to quench a thirst therefore leads an affected individual to take a lot of water or any fluid that can potentially establish an imbalance in the body’s fluids and electrolytes.

Thirst is the body’s way of signaling that it needs fluids. Sometimes it increases when the fluid content in the body is too low and there is no fluid intake.

The intensity of thirst is somewhat proportional to the low level of fluid contained in the body. In other words, the less liquid there is in the body, the more intense the sensation of thirst will be.

However, there are times when the fluid content in the body is within a normal range, but thirst persists. Polydipsia is another word for excessive thirst.

Polydipsia is often associated with polyuria which is defined as the excessive amount of urine released against the amount of fluid intake or in relation to the amount of fluid intake.

Thirst is the physiological need to take a quantity of water or any form of liquid.

It is a corrective mechanism of the body to correct and control physiologically the fluid balance in the body.

Excess in thirst can be a symptom of several medical conditions and recognition of the physiology of thirst will help to appreciate the importance of thirst as a symptom.

The thirst will lead an individual to take the fluid as a regulatory component in which the balance of the fluid will maintain the proper secretion of the antidiuretic hormone, which is secreted by the hypothalamus when there is an increase in plasma osmolality.

Drinking water or other liquid in response to thirst thus contributes to the maintenance of the osmolality of the blood.

The amount of thirst and the amount of fluid needed to quench thirst is relative to blood osmolality while the brain is being sent a signal to inhibit fluid overload.

A decrease in blood pressure or blood volume also stimulates or causes thirst. It is believed that vasopressin and human chorionic gonadotropin play a role in stimulating thirst during the pregnancy process.

Advanced age stimulates thirst and therefore a decrease in primary thirst, which, on the other hand, is rewarded by secondary consumption.

Graciously baptized as the condition of “the man of drinking water”, those cases are associated in a person who is thirsty all the time without being able to satisfy him for more quantity of water than he drinks.

Everyone knows the feeling of thirst. For example, a person can drink large amounts of liquid and relieve it, after eating salty foods or after vigorous exercises and even on a day of very high temperatures.

However, this type of thirst usually does not last long and is easily removed with liquids. Not so, when there is polydipsia.

Polydipsia can be influenced or caused by a large number of factors, including numerous diseases and disorders that can trigger incessant thirst and the need to quench that thirst.

Symptoms of polydipsia

  • Polyuria .
  • Extreme and uncontrolled hunger.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Extreme fatigue or lack of energy.
  • Genital itching
  • Slow healing of wounds or cuts.
  • Weight change (gain or loss).
  • Frequent infections
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet.



Diabetes is the most involved in the incidence of polydipsia. Both diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus can trigger polydipsia often as a side effect of diabetes medication.

Polydipsia is also one of the symptoms of diabetes and it is also the effect of the failure to take medication for diabetes, including the failure to dose the medication.

Diabetes insipidus is a rare condition unrelated to diabetes mellitus. Instead, it refers to a hormone called vasopressin, an antidiuretic hormone that helps control the elimination of fluids through the kidneys.

Diabetes insipidus is caused by low levels of vasopressin , or when the kidneys do not respond adequately to this hormone. A person with diabetes insipidus often passes large amounts of clean, odorless urine.

However, some medical studies indicate that a person with uncorrected diabetes insipidus is usually very thirsty, subsequently developing a picture of polydipsia. But, rarely, severe dehydration can occur at the same time.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • However.
  • Dry skin or eyes
  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea.
  • Slowness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Confusion.

It should be noted, that people with any of the last three symptoms should seek specialized medical attention immediately, even if they do not think they are dehydrated.

Psychogenic polydipsia is a condition that tends to be diagnosed when a person compulsively feels the need to drink as if he were dehydrated, even if they are not; likewise, they do not seem to have any other justification to explain their extreme thirst.

That is to say, the sensation of dehydration and thirst simply appears, either in a temperate afternoon while watching television, or when lying down reading a book; that is, it is unpredictable.

In a separate case, it must be said that psychogenic polydipsia can occur in certain psychiatric conditions. Those identified to date include schizophrenia , bipolar disease and depression .

Well, when there are no justifications for this condition that are biological or physiological, then the mental factor is intimately related to this rare disease.

Being that, what could be a physiological condition later becomes a merely mental condition, as it is produced psychologically.

However, it is known that other mental health disorders can have the same symptoms. And this is true because there are many medications administered for these mental conditions that also increase thirst exponentially.

Two terms used to describe this situation are “drinking compulsive water” and “self-induced water poisoning”.

The person who suffers from this rare condition, upon hearing the word “water”, can, in some cases, depending on the level of severity, look for almost any liquid to quench the sensation of thirst.

PH level

The deviation of the pH level in normal plasma can also lead to polydipsia. The deviation in the levels is often the result of the imbalance in the normal level of acid and base of the body.

This will lead an affected individual to a level of dehydration that will unleash the excess need to quench their thirst.


Diarrhea is a condition characterized by reduced stool consistency and increased bowel movement.

This condition is potential for dehydration as a result of increased secretion of fluid in the intestine accompanied by a reduction in the absorption of fluid from the intestine, thus disrupting the balance of fluid and electrolytes.

Severe burns

Severe burns can also lead to the loss of fluid in the body that can cause an imbalance in the fluid and electrolytes of the body.

The imbalance of the fluid in the bloodstream can result in increased plasma osmolality, hence the physiological driving force of thirst to maintain osmolality in equilibrium.

The pregnancy

Pregnancy is also another factor considered to trigger excessive thirst and the need to quench that thirst.

The incessant thirst is triggered by the low level of osmolality that is believed to be affected by both vasopressin and human chorionic gonadotropin.

When should a person consult a doctor?

First of all, it must be said that a urine sample can be ordered by a health professional to determine if the symptoms are due to diabetes mellitus.

Now, anyone with polydipsia should see a doctor for a diagnosis. It’s that simple

In the case of people who already have diabetes mellitus, they may want to check their blood sugar levels before seeing their doctor. So, if the levels are high, and a person is experiencing extreme polyuria and hunger , uncontrolled diabetes mellitus is the most likely cause.

However, this information should be given to the doctor, along with a history of fluid intake if possible.

Doctors may perform blood and urine tests to check blood sugar levels and help identify if symptoms are due to diabetes mellitus.

The patient should know that a common blood test called HbA1c measures a person’s sugar levels during the previous 3 months and, thus, can be used when diabetes mellitus is first diagnosed.

In the case of women who are pregnant, the doctor may also order an oral glucose tolerance test.

However, doctors can order other tests when diabetes mellitus is not the cause, or is not the only cause of an individual’s symptoms. These tests include from:

  • Control of vasopressin levels.
  • Checking the levels of sodium and potassium in the blood.
  • A test of liquid deprivation.

It should be kept in mind that some medications can cause or add polydipsia and polyuria. Here, it is vital to communicate with the doctor on duty to make discarding corresponding to the origin of the disease.

In another sense, we must know that a diagnosis of psychogenic polydipsia can be difficult. And this means that both the caregivers and the family or friends must monitor all the fluids a person drinks.

Liquids can be more than water, since it could well include drinks such as juice, coffee, soft drinks, even syrups.

Then, finally, it is essential that as soon as the symptoms of this condition appear, go to your doctor to do the respective tests and look for the cure.


Polydipsia is not a disease, but often a symptom of an underlying medical condition. It is mainly associated with diabetes mellitus. Polydipsia is also often associated with polyuria and directly diagnosing the condition is quite difficult.

Research or direct diagnosis of diabetes mellitus can be useful to diagnose polydipsia. The differential diagnosis turned out to be useful in the diagnosis of polydipsia to isolate it from different related disorders.

The blood serum test is also useful in diagnosing polydipsia by evaluating the osmolality of extracellular fluids in the body.

The revelation of the decrease in serum concentration in red blood cells, blood urea nitrogen and sodium means excessive water intake thus polydipsia.

Treatment for polydipsia

There are numerous treatments for polydipsia, since the treatment depends on the underlying cause or condition associated with the onset of polydipsia.

Desmopressin is the drug of choice for polydipsia associated with diabetes and nocturnal polydipsia. It is a synthetically produced drug that acts by replacing vasopressin and helps in the control of polydipsia and polyuria, reducing the production of urine.

The treatment of psychogenic polydipsia is different from non-psychogenic polydipsia. Psychogenic polydipsia involves dietary controls and monitoring of daily weight fluctuations, including the evaluation and management of damage to the urinary system based on the extent and damage of the functions.

Early diagnosis and timely treatment of polydipsia are essential to prevent further complications and irreversible damage that can be life-threatening.