Feeling thirsty and diabetes

Paying attention to excessive thirst is important because it could be one of the warning signs of diabetes.

Feeling thirsty and diabetes

Why does diabetes make you thirsty?

The part of our brain that tells us we are thirsty is called the hypothalamus. Both the brain and kidneys can signal the adaptive ‘thirst’ response telling us we are thirsty. Paying attention to excessive thirst is important because it could be one of the warning signs of diabetes.

Excessive thirst & hyperglycemia

Two of the most common symptoms associated with diabetes (type 1 & type 2) are increased thirst and increased urine production. The kidneys are a common factor between these two symptoms. Excessive thirst may be a symptom of high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). It’s important to be able to recognize any imbalance in thirst or urine production.

It’s the function of the kidneys and other organs to help filter out impurities. When there is a buildup of sugar in the bloodstream, our organs, especially the kidneys may become ‘overworked.’ Excess sugar becomes a burden directly on the kidneys as they work to keep up with the volume of excess sugar. The impact of excess blood sugar causes a reaction of hydration which notifies our brain that more fluids are needed causing extreme thirst.

Early detection prevents organ damage

Not only the kidneys but over time if diabetes goes undiagnosed or untreated the pancreas can also be permanently damaged. If you are noticing extreme thirst, talk with your healthcare provider. There are tests that can be done to determine its cause. Recognizing symptoms like extreme thirst and urine production and getting tested for diabetes, can help prevent organ damage. 

Typical symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling very hungry - even though you are eating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Weight loss - even though you are eating more (type 1)
  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)  

To learn more about diabetes talk with your healthcare provider and visit Michigan State University Extension.

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