What Is Desmopressin?

Jacquelyn Gilchrist

Side effects, such as headaches, may be more likely in elderly patients taking desmopression.
Side effects, such as headaches, may be more likely in elderly patients taking desmopression.

Desmopressin is a medication commonly marketed under the brand names DDAVP®, Stimate®, and Minirin®. This drug may be prescribed to manage bed-wetting, as well as excessive thirst and excessive urination, particularly when this occurs after certain surgeries or a head injury. Patients who have diabetes insipidus, sometimes called “water diabetes,” may also use desmopressin to control excessive urination. This drug is a synthetic hormone that mimics the effects of vasopressin in the body to restore the balance of salt and water.

Children taking desmopressin for bedwetting will typically be prescribed one dose to be taken at bedtime. Their fluid intake should be limited for several hours before bedtime and for eight hours after taking the medicine. Those who take this drug for diabetes insipidus and to limit excessive urination will usually take a dose two to three times daily. They must follow their doctor's guidelines regarding the amount of fluids to consume each day.

While taking desmopressin, patients should monitor themselves for their response to the drug. They should notify their physicians if their condition worsens or does not change. Some side effects may also occur, which should be reported to the doctor if they become severe or persistent. These can include headache, upset stomach, and flushing. Mild nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur.

Severe side effects from the use of desmopressin require emergency medical care. Allergic reactions are uncommon, but they may include facial swelling, problems breathing, and severe dizziness. It may also cause wheezing, closing of the throat, and hives.

Desmopressin may also sometimes cause levels of sodium in the blood to drop, particularly when patients consume too much water. This condition may be life-threatening and requires urgent medical help. Symptoms of this complication can include loss of appetite, severe headache, and severe nausea and vomiting. Unusual, sudden fatigue, hallucinations, and shallow breathing may also occur, along with loss of consciousness and seizures. Some patients may notice unusual muscle weakness, mood changes, and sudden weight gain.

Before using desmopressin, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should discuss the potential risks with their doctors. This drug may be more likely to cause side effects in children and the elderly. The use of alcohol should be restricted, because this can interfere with the drug's efficacy.

Patients should discuss their other medical conditions, medications, and supplements before taking desmopressin. It may be contraindicated for use by those who have kidney disease, heart disease, and high blood pressure, as well as a personal history of low sodium. This medicine may interact with other drugs, including narcotic pain relievers, aspirin, and diuretics.

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