Excessive Thirst

Overview

Thirst is an important mechanism that is related to the balance of fluid in the body. When an imbalance happens such that when there is a decrease in the body’s water volume, and it falls below the average required level, or when the amount of concentration of some osmolytes like salt rises, then it sends a signal to the brain which tells that you are thirsty.  

In standard terms, thirst is when we feel the need to drink or take in some fluids because of the lack of water in the body. We drink water or other liquids to quench the feeling of thirst and to avoid dehydration.  

The best calorie-free drink to satisfy the thirst is still water, but if you want a bit of flavor, you may add a dash of fruit juice or squeeze some lime or lemon. There are a lot more options too that are calorie-free and healthy such as coffee and tea, although these should be drunk in moderation. But it is not advisable to drink sugary liquids as it will make you even thirstier.

Being thirsty is a whole-body process and a natural condition that we all experience in our daily lives, but it stops being common when the thirst becomes unquenchable.  

When there is a frequent and excessive thirst, there may be a need to consult a physician as it could be a symptom of some underlying and more serious medical condition.  

Some possible conditions that may cause excessive thirst are dehydration, which is the lack of the necessary amount of fluids for the body’s need to properly function; diabetes mellitus, hyperglycemia or high blood sugar, chronic or severe stress, among others.  

When you experience excessive thirst, you may also feel fatigued, blurred vision, or dizziness.  

Aside from having possible medical conditions, excessive thirst may also be a sign of a psychological problem, such that you get that constant urge of always wanting to drink.

Causes of Excessive Thirst

Excessive thirst can be a cause of several different factors that can range from mild to severe or even highly harsh conditions.

Some possible reasons can be:

  • Diarrhea
  • Burns
  • Vomiting
  • Too much spicy or salty food
  • Significant loss of blood
  • Strenuous physical activity or exercise
  • Prescription medicines like diuretics, some types of antipsychotics or lithium

Other symptoms of excessive thirst are

  • Having dry mouth, which occurs when the glands do not produce the right amount of saliva or can be because of a prescription being taken, or due to tobacco use or other more serious medical conditions, disease, or damage in the neck and head.
  • Dry skin
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Feeling tired or fatigue

Dehydrated kids can have these conditions:

  • Sticky and dry mouth
  • Few or no tears
  • Fewer bathroom trips or fewer diaper changes
  • Sluggish
  • Irritable

Excessive thirst can also be a sign of some severe medical conditions that need to be looked after, such as:

  • Severe dehydration can be life-threatening, most notably in the case of children and infants. This can be brought about by several reasons as well, like profuse sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, illness or too much urine output.
  • Failure in specific organs including kidney, heart, and liver
  • Dipsogenic Diabetes Insipidus which is a defect in the thirst mechanism that causes an increased intake of fluids and excessive thirst.
  • Diabetes Mellitus occurs due to high blood sugar. This symptom is usually the first sign of diabetes.
  • Sepsis is a grave type of illness that is brought about by a severe inflammatory reaction due to infection with germs or bacteria.
  • Polydipsia is another sign of diabetes. This condition is when the body does not produce enough insulin or when it does not function properly, thus causing the build-up of too much sugar or glucose.

Diagnosis and Treatment 

The moment you start to feel that you have a more frequent and excessive thirst that cannot be satisfied no matter how much water or liquid you take in your body, it is best to see your doctor so you can be appropriately diagnosed, guided, and treated.

Before going to your healthcare provider, make sure that you have a list of all your medications, including over the counter, herbal, supplements, and prescriptions.  

You can expect for the doctor to have you go through some medical and laboratory procedures that may include:

  • Physical exam
  • Blood test
  • Urine test
  • Blood glucose test
  • Blood count
  • Blood differential exam
  • Urinalysis
  • Urine osmolality
  • Serum osmolality exam
  • Serum electrolyte test
  • Urine electrolyte exams

Apart from these procedures, be prepared for some questions that the doctor may ask you about:

  • Heavy perspiring
  • Fever
  • Any swelling or bleeding
  • How long have you been experiencing the symptoms?
  • Did the signs begin suddenly or slowly?
  • Did you have a lifestyle change?
  • Did you have a dietary change?
  • Did you have a recent burn or injury?
  • Has your appetite changed?
  • Have you lost or gain weight?
  • Do you have more frequent urination?
  • Has your thirst increased or decreased at some parts of the day?

How the doctor will handle your case will all depend on the results gathered from the medical procedures and the laboratory tests performed on you. In some cases, you may be referred to a specialist.

As soon as you feel that you have excessive thirst, go and see a physician before even trying to do some home remedies as it may cause more harm than good to your body. This is especially so when you are taking some prescription drugs or even over-the-counter medications as it can cause some effects on how the drugs work.

How Much Fluid Does Your Body Need?

If we can, we all want to stay healthy and avoid the condition of having excessive thirst. How then do we know that we are drinking the right amounts of fluid?

Each part of our body, meaning every cell and organ needs the right amount of water in order to carry out their functions like: properly

  • Regulating body temperature
  • Cushioning the joints and lubricating them
  • Protecting the spinal cord and the brain
  • Removing body waste in the form of bowel movement, perspiration, and urination

We need to always hydrate and drink some liquids throughout the day to keep our cells and organs healthy. This also depends on the kind of activities that you have because when you are doing a more strenuous exercise, or when you are going outdoors or when you have other conditions like vomiting, fever or diarrhea, your fluid intake needs to be more than the regular.

The best food to have are water-rich foods that include:

  • Melons
  • Oranges
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelons

And the best drinks to take especially as in the case of dehydration are:

  • Water
  • Electrolyte- infused water like Gatorade, Pedialyte or even some homemade electrolyte-rich drink
  • Coconut water
  • Watermelon

Most of our liquid intake comes from our drinks, and about 20% are from the food that we eat, which is why it is good also to be aware of what you put into your body.

It is said that active people are required to drink no less than 16 to 20 ounces of liquid around 1 to 2 hours preceding an outdoor activity, then another 6 to 12 ounces of fluid for every 10 to 15 minutes that you are spending outdoors.

For men, the average daily liquid intake should be approximately 3.7 liters or about 15.5 cups, and for women, around 2.7 liters or 11.5 cups. Or better yet, follow the old drink at least eight glasses of water every day.

You are required to drink half of your body weight in ounces, but everything varies as it also depends on your activities and water loss throughout the day. To be safe, it will be useful to practice having frequent and regular sips of water during the day.

To check if you are having just the right amount of fluids, it is best just to drink when you feel thirsty, then stop if you feel hydrated already. Also, you know that you are getting enough liquids when your urine is:

  • High in volume
  • No heavy smell
  • Light in color

Risks of Excessive Thirst

A possible chance that could happen concerning excessive thirst is overhydration. This condition is when you get more liquid in your body than what you should typically have, and having too much more than you can sweat.  

Overhydration happens when you have a disorder in the heart, kidney, or liver that either increases your body’s ability to retain water or decreases its function to eliminate water or fluids.  

When your kidneys are functioning normally, it is capable of excreting about 20 to 28 liters of water in a day or around 5.3 to 7.4 gallons.

Overhydration can result in a drop in the electrolyte (potassium, magnesium, and sodium) levels leading to headaches, weakness, and nausea. Or can result in extreme conditions like coma, brain damage, or death.

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you are experiencing:

  • Excessive hunger
  • Blurry vision
  • Fatigue
  • More frequent urination
  • Feeling frequent thirst without an apparent reason
  • Persistent and unquenchable thirst

When you feel these signs, consult your physician.

Tilly Whittaker

Our Senior Editorial Pharmacist brings positivity and light banter during meetings. She is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge and explanations. You will rarely need to open a book when she's around. Her almost eidetic memory makes her an invaluable member of the group.

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