Can Thirst Be a Symptom of Diabetes?

Excessive thirst, known as polydipsia, is one of the most common symptoms of diabetes. It often occurs with other signs of diabetes, including frequent urination (polyuria) and intense hunger (polyphagia).

Diabetes is not the only cause of thirst. Feeling thirsty is also common when you’re dehydrated or have recently eaten a salty meal. Certain medications, like diuretics (“water pills"), may also increase thirst.

This article explores why diabetes causes excessive thirst, treatment and management of diabetes, and when to see your healthcare provider. 

Woman getting glass of water due to increased thirst from diabetes

Grace Cary / Getty Images

What Is Thirst? 

Thirst is defined as a strong feeling or craving to drink fluids, usually accompanied by sensations of dry mouth and throat. The human body is about 60% water, and feeling thirsty is a signal from the brain to replenish body fluids when dehydrated.

Staying hydrated is essential for supporting critical body processes and maintaining good health. Water helps regulate body temperature, lubricates joints, supports digestion, and removes waste, so it’s important to drink when you feel thirsty.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re insatiably thirsty and drinking more fluids than is typically recommened. If your thirst is caused by diabetes, diagnosis and treatment can help manage symptoms.

Is Thirst a Symptom of Diabetes?

Drinking fluids normally satisfies thirst. But people with diabetes often feel thirsty no matter how much fluid they consume. Excessive thirst is one of the earliest signs and most common symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is a group of metabolic disorders characterized by high glucose (blood sugar) levels, or hyperglycemia, in the bloodstream. The condition occurs when the body’s ability to produce or respond to insulin—a hormone that helps cells use blood sugar for energy—is impaired. 

When diabetes is left untreated and blood sugar levels remain too high for an extended period, the kidneys must work harder to filter excess glucose and eliminate it through urination. If you’re not drinking enough, the kidneys may draw fluids from body tissues and organs to produce more urine and clear out the glucose. This process can cause dehydration and make you feel thirsty. 

After drinking to quench your thirst, you’ll urinate more often. If blood sugar levels remain high, the kidneys will continue working overtime to eliminate excess glucose, the brain will continue to send thirst signals, and you may continue to feel thirsty no matter how much fluid you consume. 

Treatments and Management of Excessive Thirst

Excessive thirst associated with diabetes can be managed with treatments that work to lower blood glucose levels. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, your healthcare provider will develop a treatment plan to keep your blood sugar level within a healthy range and manage symptoms of the disorder. Once your blood sugar level is well controlled, excessive thirst should wane. 

Treatments for diabetes vary depending on the type of diabetes you have.

Type 1 diabetes treatments include:

  • Insulin therapy: Insulin is a vital component of type 1 diabetes management. It may be administered by injection, insulin pump, insulin pen, or an inhaler.
  • Glucose monitoring: Frequent blood sugar monitoring can be done using blood-sugar meters or continuous glucose monitors. 
  • Oral medications: Some people with type 1 diabetes may be prescribed blood pressure drugs and cholesterol medications with insulin to reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications, such as cardiovascular disease. 
  • Healthy lifestyle habits: Regular exercise, eating a diabetes-friendly diet (low in carbohydrates and processed sugars), and stress management are essential for managing type 1 diabetes. 

Type 2 diabetes treatments include:

  • Lifestyle changes: Some people with type 2 diabetes may manage the condition solely through eating a healthy diet low in carbohydrates and processed sugars, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting regular exercise
  • Oral medications: If healthy lifestyle habits are not enough to control glucose levels, oral medications that lower blood glucose levels may be prescribed. 
  • Insulin: Not everyone with type 2 diabetes requires insulin, but it may be prescribed if lifestyle changes and oral medications are not effectively controlling glucose levels.

When to See Your Healthcare Provider

See your healthcare provider if your thirst is not quenched, regardless of how much you drink, and is accompanied by other unexplained symptoms. Other common symptoms of diabetes include:

When you see your healthcare provider, they may ask questions about your excessive thirst, including how long you’ve been experiencing it, how quickly it developed, or if you’ve made any recent changes to your diet. If your healthcare provider suspects you have diabetes, they may order tests to check your blood glucose level to provide an accurate diagnosis. 

If you are being treated for diabetes and continue to feel thirsty all the time, your blood sugar levels are not being well controlled. Talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms so they can adjust your treatment plan and help balance your blood sugar levels.  

Summary 

Excessive thirst is one of the most common symptoms of diabetes. Diabetes is a group of metabolic disorders characterized by high blood sugar (glucose) levels. When blood sugar is higher than normal for an extended time, the kidneys must work extra hard to filter and eliminate excess sugar from the bloodstream. This can lead to dehydration and may make people with diabetes feel as if their thirst cannot be quenched.

Diabetes treatments, such as lifestyle changes, insulin therapy, and oral medications, can help control blood sugar levels to reduce symptoms, including excessive thirst. Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re thirstier than usual and have other diabetes symptoms.

If you have a diabetes diagnosis but continue to feel extra thirsty, your blood sugar may not be well controlled. Your healthcare provider may adjust your treatment regimen to help balance your blood glucose level.

A Word From Verywell

Excessive thirst may be an early sign of diabetes. If you live with diabetes, being mindful of your health can help keep your blood sugar levels under control. Taking care of yourself by following your treatment regimen, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular exercise can help you reduce symptoms and manage the condition. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is excessive thirst a sign of diabetes?

    Excessive thirst is one of the earliest signs and most common symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It is often accompanied by other common symptoms of diabetes, such as frequent urination and intense hunger. 

  • What are ways to manage thirst with diabetes?

    Diabetes treatments, such as insulin therapy and oral medications, can balance blood sugar levels and prevent or reduce excessive thirst. Drinking plenty of fluids may help in the short term, but keeping your blood sugar levels within a normal range is essential for managing thirst with diabetes. 

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  6. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Insulin, medicines and other diabetes treatments.

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  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes symptoms.