What is the connection between diabetes and thirst?

Excessive thirst can be a symptom of diabetes, or polydipsia. When anyone has extreme thirst and regular urination, maybe they should see a doctor.

Within this article, we explain the link between excessive thirst and diabetes, as well as the various types of diabetes which can cause this symptom.

An old man drinking water
A person with diabetes may experience excessive thirst.

One diabetes sign is that it causes excessively thirsty.

Anyone suffering the following symptoms should see a physician:

  • feeling thirstier than usual
  • still feeling thirsty after drinking
  • dry mouth
  • urinating more than usual, or polyuria

What is excessive thirst?

Levels of age, lifestyle, and activity can aid in how much a person drinks.

There are currently no recommendations on how much water a person should drink every day according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC).

The Institute of Medicine estimated an adequate daily intake of water for males in 2004 as 3.7 liters and for females as 2.7 litres. Such levels contained the water in a person’s diet from all the liquids and foods.

According to the 2009–2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, males in the US appear to drink 3.46 liters of water a day, while females in the country usually drink 2.74 liters a day. Such estimates have contained water from all food sources.

However, for a variety of reasons, a person can feel more or less thirsty day after day. For example, spending time in the sun or being particularly active may contribute to a thirst.

Diabetes that causes excessive thirst

Different types of diabetes can cause excessive thirst.

Diabetes mellitus

Types 1 and 2 of diabetes include the term “diabetes mellitus.”

A person diagnosed with type 1 diabetes can not produce insulin.

Someone with type 2 diabetes can produce insulin, but their body can not make efficient use of it to help glucose reach the cells.

In either case, the blood stream still contains glucose from digested food.

The kidneys excrete some excess glucose by urine, as the authors of an article from 2014 note. The body loses more fluid than it should, because the glucose pulls water into the urine. Which results in an extra thirsty person.

Gestational diabetes

During pregnancy Gestational diabetes occurs.

Just as in a person with diabetes mellitus, an insulin resistance can lead to hyperglycemia in a woman with gestational diabetes.

For the reasons we describe in the above section, this may result in increased urination and excessive thirst

Diabetes insipidus

Diabetes insipidus is a rare disorder involving kidneys passing an unusually high urine substance that is diluted and odorless.

The kidneys normally transfer approximately 1–2 quarts of urine a day. For someone with insipid diabetes, the kidneys will pass 3–20 quarts a day. This means the individual is excessively thirsty.

Unlike someone with diabetes mellitus, someone with insipid diabetes has normal blood glucose rates. Their kidney, however, likely won’t balance the amount of fluid in the body.

This can happen for a number of reasons, including:

  • damage to the hypothalamus or pituitary gland, two small parts of the brain
  • inherited genetic mutations
  • an abnormality in the thirst mechanism
  • transient gestational diabetes insipidus, which occurs during pregnancy

The above factors can disrupt hormone vasopressin function. This hormone works with the brain and kidney to help regulate body fluids.

Other symptoms of diabetes

Some other symptoms of diabetes include:

  • tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
  • blurred vision
  • fatigue
  • unexplained weight loss
  • sores that do not heal

Treatment and management

The appropriate approach to diabetes depends on the type, and the best course of action can be prescribed by a doctor.

Type 1 diabetes

People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin.

A doctor may recommend:

  • self-injecting with a syringe
  • using an insulin pen
  • using a jet injector, which sends a fine spray of insulin into the skin without a needle
  • wearing a pump device that delivers steady doses
  • using an inhaler that delivers powdered insulin to the lungs

A person with type 1 diabetes also monitors their blood glucose levels with a device called a meter.

They use a lancet to take a drop of blood and apply it to a test strip. The test results can help the person make decisions about their diet and medication routine.

Type 2 diabetes

Many people with type 2 diabetes will get through diet and exercise to manage the condition.

Some also benefit from taking medication, such as metformin (Glucophage), that comes as tablets or as a liquid.

Gestational diabetes

The doctor will be focusing on keeping blood glucose levels in order. Unique meal plans, scheduled activities, insulin injections or a combination may be prescribed.

A woman who has this condition can need to control her blood glucose levels during the pregnancy every day.

Diabetes insipidus

The key treatment for anyone with diabetes insipidus is drinking enough fluid to avoid dehydration.

A doctor may refer the person for testing or treatment to a specialist. That may be a kidney-related nephrologist, or an endocrinologist who specializes in hormone disorders.

Diagnosis

If a person has diabetes symptoms, a doctor can do blood tests to make a diagnosis.

A doctor may also want to test infants or young adults with type 1 diabetes family history, and people with diabetes risk factors, including overweight or obesity.

Healthcare practitioners will monitor pregnant women between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation for gestational diabetes.

A doctor may conduct a water-deprivation test to check for transient diabetes insipidus during pregnancy.

Lifestyle tips

To help manage diabetes or better understand the course of the disease, a person can:

  • ask a doctor for an A1C test, which shows average blood glucose levels over the past 3 months
  • regularly check blood glucose levels
  • monitor blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • quit smoking
  • follow a diabetes meal plan
  • increase levels of physical activity

Following a balanced diet and lifestyle can help avoid such types of diabetes in general. This can include:

  • having a whole-foods diet
  • limiting the intake of processed foods
  • avoiding foods and drinks that contain added sugars
  • increasing awareness of portion size and calorie intake
  • limiting alcohol consumption
  • being more physically active
  • maintaining a healthful weight

When to see a doctor

When anyone is excessively thirsty and has dry mouth, they will see a physician. An individual should see a doctor too if they urinate more frequently than normal.

People with diabetes should inform their doctor or another member of their diabetes care team about any new symptoms or unusual blood glucose readings.

Since diabetes may cause more health complications, it is vital that people with the disease see a doctor on a regular basis.

The doctor may want to check the person’s:

  • blood pressure
  • foot health
  • weight
  • diet plan

The main problem for people with diabetes insipidus is dehydration. Its dehydration signs include:

  • thirst
  • dry skin
  • fatigue
  • sluggishness
  • nausea
  • confusion
  • dizziness

An individual with any of those symptoms will seek urgent medical attention.

Summary

Someone suffering extreme thirst should see a doctor who would be able to check for diabetes. A person can also have to deal with dry mouth and with frequent urination.

Diabetes sufferers need to properly monitor the condition and report any new signs to their doctor or diabetes team.

A family history of diabetes or ongoing health problems, such as obesity, may increase the risk of the disease developing. A person may also reduce his or her risk by maintaining a balanced diet and lifestyle.

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