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Excessive thirst, also referred to as polydipsia, is a nonspecific symptom, rather than a disease itself. It can have many possible causes, but taking into consideration underlying medical conditions, excessive thirst frequently appears as a consequence of diabetes mellitus. In fact, it is one of the very first indication of this endocrine disorder. Polydipsia may appear due to inadequate hydration, however in certain incidents, it can also develop regardless of the fluid balance. In addition, excessive thirst is frequently accompanied by prolonged mouth dryness or change in taste.
In majority of the incidents, excessive thirst is not indicating any serious diseases and is not persistent. This unpleasant sensation may appear as a natural response to eating, especially spicy or salty foods, intensive physical exercises, high air temperature or menstruation. However in certain incidents, the origin of excessive thirst is more dangerous, since it can appear due to:
- Diabetes mellitus or insipidus
- Disorders associated with cardiovascular system, such as congestive heart failure and significant loss of blood or low blood pressure.
- Kidney or liver failure
- Use of certain medications
What is more, there is also a form of excessive thirst do not caused by a physiological stimuli to drink, that is referred to as primary polydipsia. It can be either psychogenic or non-psychogenic and might be caused by e.g. autoimmune hepatitis or mental disorders, such as schizophrenia.
When it comes to the diagnosis, a specialist will certainly investigate patient’s medical history. It may be focused on e.g. recent diseases, the course of excessive thirst development, weight changes or activity level. Afterwards, it is recommended to perform several tests, such as physical examination, blood sugar concentration test, complete blood count and urinalysis. Nevertheless, if there is a suspicion of a mental disorder, the psychological supervision and further evaluation might be required. In those cases, the daily intake of fluids is also monitored.
The management and outcome of the excessive thirst is strongly connected with an underlying cause. In majority of the incidents, the source can be either completely eradicated or effectively controlled. One have to bear in mind, however, that without treatment, this specific ailment can result in serious complication or evolve into an overhydration. Even though overhydration is rarely seen, in extreme incidents it can lead to patient’s death.
When to see a doctor
If the excessive thirst do not relieves despite the high intake of fluids or its presence is constant for longer than few days, the patient should visit a healthcare specialist. It is most likely the sign of the serious disorder, that without treatment will eventually lead to deterioration of a general health condition. Whereas immediate intervention is required, when one can experience symptoms linked with dehydration. They may include, for instance, headaches, vision disorders, loss of appetite or decreased urine volume.