What Is Polydipsia?

Drinking plenty of water will usually take care of your thirst. But sometimes, no amount of water seems like enough. You'll drink and drink and drink -- and drink -- and still be thirsty. That's polydipsia.

People who have polydipsia will also spend a lot of time in the bathroom. Instead of the 3 quarts most adults will pee out in a day, they can pee out as much as 16 quarts, depending on how much fluid they drink and what's causing their polydipsia.

Treatment for it depends on why you have it.

Causes

You usually get polydipsia as a symptom of other things.

Diabetes: Super high blood sugar will make you pee a lot. The more you pee, the more dehydrated and thirstier you get, and the more you drink.

Diabetes insipidus: What most people think of when they hear "diabetes" has to do with your pancreas. Diabetes insipidus happens when there's a problem with your kidneys or your pituitary gland, which makes a hormone that helps control how much water your kidneys keep in your body.

Mental illness: Some people have an uncontrollable urge to drink water, so they drink it all day even though they don't need to. This is called psychogenic polydipsia. Mental illnesses that can cause polydipsia include:

Brain injuries and damage: This could be from diseases like HIV or other illnesses.

Why It's a Problem

Drinking too much water can upset the balance of chemistry in your body. Normally you get rid of extra water by peeing, but when your body can't keep up, your blood gets diluted. It could lead to too little sodium in your blood (hyponatremia) with too much water in and around your cells.

This condition can damage your organs and bones. It can also cause:

As hyponatremia gets worse, you could go into a coma or die.

If you've been extremely thirsty for a few days and peeing a lot, and you have any of these other symptoms, call your doctor right away.

Treatment

People with diabetes will have to adjust their care routine to try to manage their blood sugar better.

Your doctor might prescribe medication or hormones for diabetes insipidus.

For psychogenic polydipsia, treatment includes:

  • Limiting the fluids you drink
  • Counseling
  • Medication
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on September 23, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Dorland's Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers, Saunders, 2007.

Mayo Clinic: "Diabetes Insipidus," "Hyponatremia: Definition."

Diabetes.co.uk: "Polydipsia."

Cedars-Sinai: "Polydipsia."

Journal for Nurse Practitioners: Recognizing and Managing Pyschogenic Polydipsia in Mental Health."

Internet Journal of Nephrology: "Non-Psychogenic Polydipsia With Hyponatremia."

American Diabetes Association: "DKA (Ketoacidosis) & Ketones."

JDRF: "Polydipsia, or Excessive Thirst, as a Sign of Diabetes."

BMJ Best Practice: "Psychogenic Polydipsia."

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