Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Diabetes insipidus (DI) is a condition in which a person is thirsty
all the time, drinks large amounts of fluids, and produces large amounts of urine. It is not the same condition as the more commonly known diabetes mellitus.
What is going on in the body?
When a person has diabetes insipidus, it is almost as if everything he or she drinks passes right through the kidneys. The 4 forms of DI are:
central or neurogenic, in which a defect in the brain causes a shortage
of vasopressin, or antidiuretic hormone (ADH). This hormone normally tells the kidneys how much urine to release.
nephrogenic, in which a kidney defect causes an abnormal response to
pregnancy-induced, in which there is a low level of vasopressin during
primary polydipsia, which is an abnormally high level of thirst and fluid
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
Diabetes insipidus may be caused by:
brain tumor, which causes the body to produce less-than-enough vasopressin
head injury causing damage to
the pituitary gland, the part of the brain that releases vasopressin
craniotomy, or surgery on the head
infections, such as encephalitis
or meningitis, that damage the
pituitary gland or brain
some medications, such as lithium
inadequate release and response to vasopressin during pregnancy
Symptoms & Signs
What are the signs and symptoms of the disease?
Symptoms of diabetes insipidus include:
excessive urination: anywhere from 4 to 16 liters a day or more
inability to quench thirst
dry skin and mucous membranes
dehydration, causing dizziness and general weakness
the need to urinate during the night
fatigue from getting up to
urinate during the night
Diagnosis & Tests
How is the disease diagnosed?
Diagnosis of diabetes
insipidus is usually based on the medical history, physical exam, lab tests,
and imaging tests. Urine tests, including a water deprivation test, will often
be used when DI is suspected. With this test, water is withheld until the
person loses a certain percentage of his or her body weight. Blood and urine
tests are checked routinely to evaluate the reaction of the body to the lack of
water. Ultrasound,MRI, and CT scan are commonly used imaging tests to check for brain injury, tumors, or kidney problems.
Prevention & Expectations
What can be done to prevent the disease?
It is hard to prevent diabetes insipidus. A person can reduce his or her risk of head injury by following sports safety guidelines for children, adolescents, and adults. Early treatment of infections may also reduce the risk of DI.
What are the long-term effects of the disease?
depend on the cause of the diabetes insipidus. For instance, if the cause of
the DI is a head injury and a person recovers completely from the injury, there may be no long-term effects.
What are the risks to others?
Diabetes insipidus is not
contagious and poses no risk to others. However, those who are affected may sometimes
pass the condition on to their children. Genetic counseling may be helpful to couples with a family history of diabetes insipidus.
Treatment & Monitoring
What are the treatments for the disease?
Treatment of diabetes insipidus
will depend on the cause. For instance, a person may need antibiotics for an
infection. In other people, control of DI will involve use of different types
of vasopressin, given as an injection into the muscle or through a nasal spray. Drinking enough fluids will also be essential to prevent dehydration.
If the DI is caused by problems in the kidneys, a water pill may be prescribed
to keep the fluids in the body balanced. If other conditions are present, such
as head injury, treatment may involve
surgery to repair or relieve pressure on the brain. Those with a brain tumor may need surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
can cause stomach upset, headache, or
allergic reaction. Vasopressin may
cause too much fluid to build up in the body, so fluid intake needs to be
watched carefully. Treatments that require surgery pose a risk of bleeding,
infection, and allergic reaction to
anesthesia. Chemotherapy may cause
more side effects, including hair loss
and increased risk of infections.
What happens after treatment for the disease?
A person with a head injury may require physical therapy and occupational therapy during recovery. Those with kidney problems may
need further treatment, continued medication, and monitoring. A pregnant woman may need no further treatment
once she delivers the baby. Those with serious diseases, such as end-stage
cancer, may die if treatment does not work.
How is the disease monitored?
Any new or worsening
symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider. A person may be advised
to watch the amount of fluids he or she drinks and the amount of urine that he
or she makes.