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.

Causes of central diabetes insipidus

Central diabetes insipidus is the most common type of diabetes insipidus. It occurs because of damage to the pituitary gland and poor regulation of vasopressin. Damage to the pituitary can result from:

  • Brain surgery
  • Genetics
  • Head injury
  • Infection
  • Tumor

Causes of nephrogenic diabetes insipidus

In nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, the kidneys cannot properly process vasopressin. Damage to the kidney’s vasopressin response mechanism can result from:

  • Genetics
  • Hypercalcemia (too much calcium in the blood)
  • Kidney failure or certain kidney diseases
  • Medication side effects, such as side effects from lithium
  • Other causes not currently known

Causes of dipsogenic diabetes insipidus

Dipsogenic diabetes insipidus happens when there is damage to the body’s sense of thirst. The sense of thirst is located in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. Damage to the hypothalamus can occur due to:

  • Brain surgery
  • Genetics
  • Head injury
  • Infection
  • Tumor

Causes of gestational diabetes insipidus

Gestational diabetes insipidus arises in pregnant women when the placenta manufactures an enzyme that attacks the mother’s vasopressin, leading to poor fluid regulation.

What are the risk factors for diabetes insipidus?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing diabetes insipidus. Not all people with risk factors will get diabetes insipidus. Risk factors for diabetes insipidus include:

  • Brain surgery
  • Family history of diabetes insipidus
  • Head injury
  • Infection of the brain
  • Kidney disease (includes any type of kidney problem, such as kidney stones, kidney failure, and kidney anomalies)
  • Pregnancy (gestational diabetes insipidus)

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 ... Read more about diabetes insipidusintroduction


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


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