Thirst - excessive


Excessive thirst is an abnormal feeling of always needing to drink fluids.

Alternative Names

Increased thirst; Polydipsia; Excessive thirst


Drinking lots of water is usually healthy. However, the urge to drink too much may be the result of a physical or emotional disease. Excessive thirst may be a symptom of high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). It can be an important clue in detecting diabetes.

Excessive thirst is a fairly common symptom. It is often the reaction to fluid loss during exercise, or to eating salty foods.


Home Care

Because thirst is usually the body's signal to replace water loss, it is usually appropriate to drink plenty of liquids.

A very strong, constant urge to drink may be a sign of a psychological problem, which may mean psychological help is needed.

For thirst caused by diabetes, follow the prescribed treatment to properly control blood sugar levels.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The health care provider will get your medical history and perform a physical examination.

Medical history questions may include the following:

A psychological evaluation may be recommended if the health care provider suspects a psychological compulsive thirst. Your fluid intake and output will be closely watched.

Diagnostic tests that may be performed include the following:


Gibbs MA, Tayal VS. Electrolyte disturbances. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 123.

Review Date: 1/31/2011
Reviewed By: Linda Vorvick, MD, Family Physician, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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