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Diabetes Insipidus

Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team

Updated on

What is diabetes insipidus?

Diabetes insipidus is a hormonal condition that interferes with the water balance in the body. This condition occurs when the hormone anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) does not act strongly enough on the kidneys, causing them to pass more water than what is necessary. This condition causes people to feel more thirsty than usual and to produce large volumes of diluted urine. This condition can affect people of all ages. The outlook is usually good, although it can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.


Diabetes insipidus is a condition that interferes with the water balance in the body. A hormone called ADH (anti-diuretic hormone) is responsible for helping the kidneys to maintain water levels. If there is not enough ADH or in the kidneys don't respond to ADH in the blood, more water will be lost as urine. Damage to the pituitary gland or hypothalamus (the parts of the brain responsible for making ADH) or the kidneys can cause this condition. Some medications can make the kidneys less responsive to ADH. Pregnancy can also cause this condition, though this is not very common. Some people develop this condition without any obvious cause. Diabetes insipidus can affect people of all ages.


Typical symptoms include feeling thirstier than usual, drinking large amounts of water and producing large volumes of urine. Some people produce up to 20 liters of urine a day. Other symptoms include waking up in the middle of the night to urinate (nocturia). People with this condition may become dehydrated if they can't drink enough fluids to replace the water lost in urine. Children may have a fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea or weight loss.


The diagnosis is usually made based on the symptoms and blood and urine tests. Some specialized tests may be done, such as a water deprivation test, where the amount of urine produced is measured and compared with the amount of water drunk during a given period. MRI scans (magnetic resonance imaging scans) of the brain may be done to investigate the pituitary gland.


The treatment depends on the cause of the diabetes insipidus. In some cases, it may be only necessary to increase the intake of water to avoid dehydration. Replacing ADH is often necessary. It may be recommended to reduce or remove salt from one’s diet.

Other names for diabetes insipidus

  • Neurogenic diabetes insipidus
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