What is diabetes insipidus?

Diabetes insipidus is a rare condition in which the kidneys are unable to retain water. This leads to excessive urination and an increased risk of dehydration, a loss of body fluids and electrolytes, which can be life threatening when severe and untreated. Diabetes insipidus occurs when the body improperly uses antidiuretic hormone, or vasopressin, which is made in the hypothalamus of the brain. Vasopressin acts on the kidneys to regulate urine concentration. When the normal production or function of vasopressin is disrupted in some way, diabetes insipidus can result.

Kidney Problems Spotlight

There are four major types of diabetes insipidus. Central diabetes insipidus is caused by problems with the pituitary gland. Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus can develop when the kidneys do not respond properly to vasopressin. In dipsogenic diabetes insipidus, the body’s system for regulating the sense of thirst is damaged. Finally, gestational diabetes insipidus occurs in pregnant women when the placenta destroys the mother’s vasopressin.

Treatment for diabetes insipidus depends highly on the type of diabetes insipidus. In mild cases, simply drinking extra fluids may be sufficient to prevent complications. For most cases of central and gestational diabetes insipidus, a drug called desmopressin, which is a synthetic version of vasopressin, is an effective treatment. Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus is generally treated with other drugs, such as hydrochlorothiazide. There is no treatment for dipsogenic diabetes insipidus.

Diabetes insipidus can lead to several complications, including dehydration or overhydration. In untreated cases, complications can be severe, even life threatening. Receiving the appropriate medical treatment for diabetes insipidus is especially important as the symptoms can be similar to those of the more common diabetes mellitus, though the two diseases are unrelated. Modern medicine is very effective at treating most cases of diabetes insipidus.

While severe complications from diabetes insipidus are rare, the condition can lead to dangerous dehydration. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms of dehydration, such as fever or sunken appearance of the eyes.

Seek prompt medical care if persistent symptoms of diabetes insipidus occur, such as excessive thirst.


What are the symptoms of diabetes insipidus?

Symptoms of diabetes insipidus are related to poor water retention and include excessive urination and excessive thirst. Symptoms are generally not life threatening, but can lead to severe dehydration if proper medical treatment is not obtained.... Read more about diabetes insipidussymptoms


What causes diabetes insipidus?

Diabetes insipidus arises from damage to the body’s systems, which are in charge of regulating water balance. This includes damage to the adrenal glands, the kidneys, or glands in the central nervous system. The specific cause of diabetes insipidus depends on the type of diabetes insipidus.... Read more about diabetes insipiduscauses


How is diabetes insipidus treated?

Mild cases of diabetes insipidus may not require medical treatment, or they may require that you drink extra water during the day. In more serious cases of diabetes insipidus, the treatment depends on the type of diabetes insipidus.... Read more about diabetes insipidustreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

Your Guide to Diabetes