Excessive thirst and water intake caused in the absence of physiological stimuli to drink
Primary polydipsia describes excessive thirst and water intake caused in the absence of physiological stimuli to drink. This includes both psychogenic primary polydipsia and non-psychogenic primary polydipsia, such as in patients with autoimmune chronic hepatitis with severely elevated globulin levels.
Polydipsia can be characteristic of diabetes mellitus, often as an initial symptom. It is observed in cases of poorly controlled diabetes, which is sometimes the result of low patient adherence to anti-diabetic medication. It can also be caused by a change in the osmolality of the extracellular fluids of the body, hypokalemia, decreased blood volume (as occurs during major hemorrhage), and other conditions that create a water deficit. This is usually a result of osmotic diuresis. Diabetes insipidus ("tasteless" diabetes, as opposed to diabetes mellitus) can also cause polydipsia. Polydipsia is also a symptom of anticholinergic poisoning. Zinc is also known to reduce symptoms of polydipsia by causing the body to absorb fluids more efficiently (reduction of diarrhea, induces constipation) and it causes the body to retain more sodium; thus a zinc deficiency can be a possible cause. The combination of polydipsia and (nocturnal) polyuria is also seen in (primary) hyperaldosteronism (which often goes with hypokalemia). Antipsychotics can have side effects such as dry mouth that may make the patient feel thirsty.
Polydipsia is a symptom (evidence of a disease state), not a disease in itself. As it is often accompanied by polyuria, investigations directed at diagnosing diabetes insipidus and diabetes mellitus can be useful. Blood serum tests can also provide useful information about the osmolality of the body's extracellular fluids. A decrease in osmolality caused by excess water intake will decrease the serum concentration of red blood cells, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), and sodium.
Journal of Clinical Diabetes.