Excessive thirst: why does it happen?

Muhammad Usman Babar
4 min readJul 9, 2020
Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash

Thirst is a natural mechanism to compensate for the body’s water losses. Sometimes, if the process is altered by pathologies, we suffer the symptom in excess.

Excessive thirst is an indicator that something is not working well in the body. Whether due to a loss of fluid balance or underlying pathology, the fact that this mechanism becomes exaggerated may be synonymous with concern.

As a general rule, the human body is efficient in controlling the thirst mechanism to incite fluid intake. If it were not, multiple problems would ensue.

With the balance of the water through the desire to drink it, the losses that take place through sweat or urine are compensated. However, sometimes this physiological mechanism fails or increases excessively. We explain, then, why excessive thirst can occur and what consequences it has.

Excessive thirst for increased sugar

The level of sugar in the blood can influence the mechanism that regulates thirst directly. If the blood glucose rises above the values ​​considered normal, due to a metabolic failure, for example, it is probable that an excessive thirst will take place, leading the individual to ingest water without finding satiety.

Poorly controlled diabetes is, therefore, a pathology that triggers this process. In fact, among the three indicative symptoms to suspect chronic hyperglycemia we have polydipsia (excess thirst), polyuria (excess urine), and polyphagia (excess hunger).

Some studies published in the current scientific literature explain in detail the physiological processes by which this metabolic pathology is capable of generating polydipsia. In the event of this condition occurring frequently, consultation with the specialist to assess the vitality of the pancreas and the existence of any disease related to the metabolism of nutrients is essential.

Polydipsia caused by excess salt

It is also possible that excessive thirst occurs from excess intake of some components of the diet. Specifically, it is common for this situation to occur when too salty foods are incorporated.

The sodium is one of the minerals involved more decisive way the water and electrolyte balance. A variation in its levels, although minimal, can propitiate the mechanisms that cause thirst.

Even an excessive supply of sodium is capable of interfering with cardiovascular health, increasing the risk of hypertension. This association is reflected in research published in the journal Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology.

Excessive thirst as part of a psychiatric disorder

In addition to the causes already stated, excessive thirst may be the result of a psychiatric disorder. When there is an alteration in the cerebral hippocampus, especially, one of the symptoms is polydipsia.

Schizophrenia or anxiety could be promoters of this condition, as stated in a recent review of scientific articles published in the Swiss Medical Weekly magazine. The intrinsic background relationship is not known with complete certainty, but changes in neurotransmitters are suspected.

A poorly controlled schizophrenia situation can put the lives of those who suffer it and those around them at risk. Thus, it is crucial to establish a pharmacological guideline to manage pathology safely.

Excessive thirst for intense exercise

The last reason that we will discuss, and that is related to the appearance of excessive thirst, is the practice of intense exercise in conditions of high temperature and humidity. Physical activity in this type of situation entails a greater loss of water through sweat and perspiration.

A water imbalance is generated that must be compensated to ensure the functioning of physiological reactions and the maintenance of body temperature. To do this, brain sensors warn the person to incorporate fluids.

One of the ways the human body has to signal the state of dehydration is through the thirst mechanism. Under these conditions, it can manifest excessively, since fluid losses can amount to more than 2% of total body volume. In this way, frequent water intake during sports practice significantly reduces the risk of this sensation appearing, as well as developing acute complications that put performance at risk.

Polydipsia: a disorder caused by various factors

Several causes can generate a feeling of excessive thirst. Some of them have some severity, but others are solved by ingesting plenty of liquid, or taking into account certain precautions beforehand.

If this disorder appears in your life frequently and without a logical explanation, do not hesitate to visit a doctor. He will be able to establish an accurate diagnosis and to prescribe the pertinent medication in case it is necessary.

Besides, if you do sports in hot environments, plan correct hydration guidelines to prevent the onset of excessive thirst. Not only your performance depends on it, but the complete electrolytic metabolism of the blood.