Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Excessive thirst is an abnormally strong desire to drink liquids. It can related to an underlying medical condition.
What is going on in the body?
Increased thirst is not considered excessive when it is related to a recent lack of drinking fluids. Also, people who have always had a strong desire to drink a lot of fluids are not considered to have excessive thirst. There are many potential causes for this condition.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
There are many possible causes for excessive thirst. These include:
Other causes are also possible. Sometimes, no cause can be found.
Symptoms & Signs
What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?
When a person complains of an excessive amount of thirst, the healthcare provider will need to know:
Other questions may also be asked.
Diagnosis & Tests
How is the condition diagnosed?
The healthcare provider will take a medical history and perform a physical exam. This may be all that is needed to determine the cause. In other cases, further testing is needed.
The tests used depend on the suspected cause. Blood tests are commonly done. For example, a blood glucose level can be used to detect diabetes. A blood test called a chem-7 includes a serum sodium test that can detect hypernatremia. A blood alcohol level test can detect alcohol use. An x-ray test called a cranial CT scan may be done if brain damage is suspected.
Prevention & Expectations
What can be done to prevent the condition?
Prevention is often not possible. Drinking extra fluids before exercising can help prevent cases from this cause. Avoiding substances responsible for excessive thirst can prevent cases due to drug use. Taking medications as prescribed and checking blood sugars regularly can prevent some cases due to diabetes.
What are the long-term effects of the condition?
Long-term effects are related to the cause. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause damage to many bodily organs and even result in death. Cases due to dehydration can usually be treated successfully without long term effects. A person with psychogenic polydipsia can sometimes develop dangerous salt imbalances due to excessive water drinking.
What are the risks to others?
Excessive thirst is not contagious and poses no risks to others. If the cause of excessive thirst is dehydration due to an infection, the infection may be contagious.
Treatment & Monitoring
What are the treatments for the condition?
Treatment is directed at the cause. For example, a person with diabetes may use insulin injections or other medications to control blood sugar levels. Someone who is dehydrated is given fluids. If a person is unable to drink extra fluid, it can be supplied an through an intravenous (IV) tube. This is a special thin tube that is inserted through a person’s skin and into a vein, usually in the hand or forearm. This may be necessary if a person if vomiting and cannot hold fluids down. Someone with hyperthyroidism may need medication, surgery, or radioactive therapy to treat the condition. A person who abuses drugs may need drug rehabilitation. An individual who has psychogenic polydipsia is often treated with psychotherapy, and possibly medications.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Side effects depend on the treatments used. For example, medications can cause allergic reactions, stomach upset or headaches. Surgery carries a risk of bleeding and infection.
What happens after treatment for the condition?
Once treated, a person with dehydration often needs no further treatment. Someone with diabetes needs lifelong monitoring and treatment for their diabetes. An individual who stops abusing drugs may not longer experience excessive thirst.
How is the condition monitored?
Any changes or response to treatment can be reported to the healthcare provider. Other monitoring is related to the cause. For example, someone with diabetes needs to check blood sugar levels every day.
Article type: xmedgeneral