Why Does Diabetes Make You Thirsty?

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Nearly 24 million people in the United States have diabetes. The number continues to grow, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Excessive thirst is one of the warning signs of diabetes and also a common side effect after a diabetic begins treatment for the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). "Hyperglycemia (or high blood glucose) can occur any time blood glucose is above the target range." the ADA states. "In fact, the symptoms of diabetes are the same as the symptoms of hyperglycemia. That's because diabetes itself causes hyperglycemia."

Diabetes

  • Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that allows your body to turn blood glucose into a form of energy your cells can use. Type 1 diabetics produce little or no insulin, and Type 2 diabetics produce either an insufficient amount of insulin or are resistant to the insulin they do produce. To avoid the long-term side effects of diabetes--like blindness or kidney disease--you must keep your blood sugar under control. The National Institutes of Health recommends a blood glucose range of 80 to 130 before meals and less than 170 after meals.

Hyperglycemia

  • High blood sugar can be caused by a range of factors including too little insulin, too much food, too little exercise, illness or not taking oral medications as directed. Treatments for hyperglycemia include taking extra insulin and increasing exercise, but the treatments vary based on your individual condition. A personal treatment plan for dealing with hyperglycemia should be developed with your health care professional.

Excessive Thirst

  • Hyperglycemia is the reason that diabetics experience excessive thirst. Your kidneys act as a filter and normally absorb the glucose in your blood and recycle it for your body's use. When your blood glucose is high, your kidneys cannot absorb all of the sugar. Instead, the excess sugar is dumped into your urine, and your body tries to flush it out of your system by producing more urine. The increased urine production--and resulting dehydration--causes you to be extremely thirsty.

Diabetes and Your Kidneys

  • Over time, hyperglycemia can damage your kidneys. The extra work required to deal with high blood sugar can cause your kidneys to fail. One early sign of kidney problems is protein leaking into your urine. "Having small amounts of protein in the urine is called microalbuminuria. When kidney disease is diagnosed early, (during microalbuminuria), several treatments may keep kidney disease from getting worse," according to the ADA. "Having larger amounts is called macroalbuminuria. When kidney disease is caught later (during macroalbuminuria), end-stage renal disease, or ESRD, usually follows."

Prevention

  • Excessive thirst may be a sign that your blood sugar is too high. If you have this warning sign, see your health care provider. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control. To make sure your kidneys are functioning properly, you should have a urine test for protein at least once a year.

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