What is Diabetes Insipidus?

Article Details
  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 11 December 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
External Resources

Diabetes insipidus is a condition that affects normal kidney functioning. People who have the disorder tend to have uncontrollable, insatiable thirst accompanied with excessive urine production. Symptoms are usually due to a genetic or acquired deficiency in antidiuretic hormone (ADH), though other problems such as chronic kidney disease or high calcium can also cause diabetes insipidus. Doctors can arrange for daily hormone therapy or another form of treatment after confirming the underlying cause.

There are two basic types of diabetes insipidus. Central diabetes insipidus refers to a shortage or absence of ADH in the body due to problems with the hypothalamus or pituitary gland. Inherited defects, trauma to the head or neck, and serious throat infections can all impair the body's ability to produce and secrete normal levels of ADH. The second type, nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, involves a problem with the kidneys themselves. Kidney disease, high calcium, genetic defects, and certain drugs, such as lithium, impair the ability to filter enough water back into the bloodstream.


The symptoms of both types of diabetes insipidus are similar. The most obvious symptom is excessive thirst as the body reacts to lower-than-normal water levels in the blood. A person can develop dry mouth, a raspy voice, fatigue, and headaches if he or she does not have access to fluids almost constantly. Excessive urination is partly a symptom of the underlying disease and partly due to increased fluid intake. Problems that are due to injury, infection, or kidney damage can occur at any age, but symptoms are typically present in infancy with genetic disorders.

A person who develops symptoms of excess thirst and urination that last for more than one or two days should visit a hospital. A doctor can analyze urine samples to see if they contain very high water content and very low salt levels. Blood is commonly drawn to check for infection, and magnetic resonance imaging scans may be taken of the head to check for obvious damage to the hypothalamus or pituitary. If no underlying cause is discovered, genetic testing may reveal an inherited disorder.

In order to control short-term symptoms, patients are instructed to drink a set amount of fluid each day, get plenty of rest, and report any changes in urine output to their doctors. Patients who have ADH deficiencies are usually prescribed a special synthetic version of ADH called desmopressin to take daily to stabilize kidney functioning. Surgery is needed in rare cases where one of the kidneys or the glands in the throat has been severely damaged by infection or injury.



Discuss this Article

Post 3

I'm sure treating diabetes insipidus caused by a kidney disorder is more difficult. But treating diabetes insipidus caused by a lack of antidiuretic hormone (ADH) is not very difficult. The patient just has to replace the hormone in the body and the symptoms reduce. I think ADH is even available as a nasal spray. So it's easy to treat this condition if this is the cause.

My sister had a very mild version of this due to a throat infection. She was not given ADH. She was only told to drink more water which was enough in her case. Of course drinking more water is not the solution for more serious cases.

Post 2

@turquoise-- As far as I know, diabetes insipidus is totally different than diabetes mellitus. The latter is the name given for type 1 and type 1 diabetes.

I'v heard diabetes insipidus being called diabetes without the sugar. So I think this disorder doesn't cause high blood sugar. It just causes excessive thirst and urination. It also causes a low concentration of minerals in blood and can lead to dehydration.

The causes are also different than causes of diabetes mellitus. So they really don't have much in common.

Post 1

What is the difference between diabetes insipidus and regular diabetes?

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?