What Is Involved in the Management of Polydipsia?

L. Whitaker

Appropriate steps in managing polydipsia, or excessive thirst, depend on whether an individual's chronic thirst condition has biological or psychological origins. Extreme thirst, accompanied by excessive urination, is frequently seen as one of the first physical symptoms of diabetes. This type of biologically based polydipsia can be managed by appropriate treatment and monitoring of the diabetic condition, typically with insulin. A condition known as psychogenic polydipsia is seen with mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, as well as with children experiencing emotional difficulties. In these cases, addressing the psychological issue through therapy, medication, or other means is the only effective option for managing the polydipsia condition.

Insulin is used to manage diabetes and control symptoms of biologically based polydipsia caused by the disease.
Insulin is used to manage diabetes and control symptoms of biologically based polydipsia caused by the disease.

When polydipsia is a symptom of diabetes insipidus or diabetes mellitis, the sensation of extreme or chronic thirst is typically seen along with a significant increase in urinary output. If these symptoms occur in an individual who has already been diagnosed with a form of diabetes, excessive thirst might indicate a need for adjusting the dosage of insulin or other diabetic medications. An individual with diabetes who experiences extreme thirst or weight loss should consult his or her physician regarding the maintenance of healthy blood sugar levels. Commonly, tingling or numbness of the arms and legs as well as blurry vision could happen in conjunction with polydipsia as a sign of inadequate insulin.

Short-term polydipsia can be caused by consuming spicy foods, such as peppers.
Short-term polydipsia can be caused by consuming spicy foods, such as peppers.

Psychogenic polydipsia occurs as a symptom of a mental disorder or emotional imbalance. In such cases, there is no biological cause for the urge to drink excessive amounts of water. Psychiatric intervention in the form of medication, therapy, or other psychological support is the treatment indicated for excessive thirst with no biological basis.

For some cases, a water restriction test could be used to aid in the diagnosis of polydipsia. In this procedure, an individual is prevented from ingesting fluids during a supervised period while his or her blood, urine, and weight are monitored hourly. The person being tested is typically allowed to have a few ice chips during the test but cannot consume liquids. This test can sometimes be helpful in differentiating a psychogenic or biological basis for excessive thirst.

Excessive thirst can have other biological roots aside from diabetes. Exposure to some types of poisons can result in extreme thirst, among other symptoms. Occasionally, excessive thirst might occur as a result of a zinc deficiency, due to zinc's action of aiding the body's absorption of fluids. Certain types of medications, such as diuretics or anticholinergics, can cause a sensation of great thirst. A short-term sensation of extreme thirst could occur due to exercise or a spicy meal.

People with polydipsia feel thirsty all the time.
People with polydipsia feel thirsty all the time.

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Discussion Comments


I didn't know polydipsia could be caused by a psychological issue. It shouldn't surprise me, I don't suppose, since many other physical conditions can have a psychological component. I only ever heard of it being caused by diabetes.

I know sometimes I'm really thirsty after I eat Chinese food, but I figured that's because it's so salty. It's got MSG in it, which probably doesn't help, either. But it always seems I'm really, really thirsty about two or three hours after I eat Chinese. I try to drink a lot of water with my meal, and afterward too, but I always end up being thirsty.


Actually, polydipsia is probably the symptom that sends people to the doctor with diabetes. It's not the first symptom. By the time it appears, the person has probably had diabetes for a good while.

If the polydipsia is caused by diabetes, then getting the blood sugar under control will almost always fix that issue. However, it's still important for diabetics (and nearly everyone else) to drink the appropriate amount of water.

The excessive thirst and frequent urination actually go away pretty quickly once the blood sugar is under control -- usually within two or three weeks of the diabetic starting medication and staying on a healthy diet.

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