What causes polydipsia?

Drinking cold iced water or sweet drinks under the hot sun sure sounds the best thing to happen on a sunny day. It is normal to drink more than usual when we are living in a hot season as an attempt to cool the body. Have you ever wondered why the body decides to make us crave for those thirst quenchers? This is because the body mechanism is trying to protect us from falling into dehydration and to maintain its optimal temperature for the body to function properly. However, have you realised why there are some moments when no matter how many amounts of water you drink, you will still feel thirsty and may want to ask a doctor? This is known as polydipsia.

Polydipsia is defined as extreme thirstiness. Although it is important to drink several glasses of water throughout the day to keep the body hydrated, if a person constantly feels thirsty all the time or feels a strong thirst compared to usual time even after drinking water, this should raise a concern. People with polydipsia often spend a lot of time in the bathroom as the body constantly eliminates fluids through urination. Aside from constant back and forth to the toilet, the urine production in polydipsia can reach as much as 7 times more than other normal people would, which normally a maximum of 2 litres per day.

There are many causes leading to polydipsia. One of the most common ones is diabetes mellitus. While most polydipsia is often known as one of the main symptoms of diabetes, there are other causes not relating to this metabolic disease. Simple reasons such as not drinking enough water after the body loses fluid from drinking certain beverages like coffee and tea or after sweating from sports activity can be among the causes of polydipsia. Some medications such as diuretics can easily cause polydipsia. Polydipsia can also be caused by emotional distress such as anxiety and mental disorders such as those with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Main symptom of polydipsia is a feeling of extreme thirstiness even after drinking a huge amount of water.  This is followed by a persistent feeling of dryness in the mouth. With many fluids input into the body, so as the output through urine. Polydipsia causes a person to pass urine in a big volume as compared to normal people. Since people with polydipsia drink too much water, the body may not be able to keep up with these changes of water concentration in the body for long merely through urine production. This eventually leads to the water diluting the blood that contains sodium and causes other symptoms such as headache, nausea, muscle cramps, seizures and confusion. This condition is known as hyponatremia.

Since polydipsia can be caused by several causes, it may get tricky to differentiate what a person experiencing is temporary extreme thirst or polydipsia. Rule of thumb is, if the extreme thirst lasts for a few days and does not change much after drinking huge amounts of water in a day and passing urine becomes frequent, plus with other concerning symptoms, do seek medical advice immediately. Diagnosing polydipsia will require a series of questions regarding medical history, blood test and urine analysis. You can always seek doctor’s advice if you have any concerns.

Treatments for polydipsia depend on the cause. If polydipsia is caused by diabetes, physicians will prescribe antidiabetic medication to help control their blood sugar level and reduce polydipsia. For polydipsia caused by psychological causes, finding a certified counsellor and therapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) might help to improve the drinking behaviour.

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