What Is Diabetes Insipidus?

Most people have heard of the two main types of diabetes. But did you know the name has nothing to do with high blood sugar? It's a general term for any condition that causes your body to make a lot of urine.

And that’s just what, diabetes insipidus does. This condition makes you extra thirsty. As a result, you pee -- a lot.

How Does It Affect You?

Your body makes a substance called antidiuretic hormone (ADH). It’s produced in a part of your brain called the hypothalamus and stored in your pituitary gland. It tells your kidneys to hold onto water, which makes your urine more concentrated.

When you’re thirsty or slightly dehydrated, ADH levels rise. Your kidneys reabsorb more water and put out concentrated urine. If you’ve had plenty to drink, ADH levels fall and what comes out is clear and dilute.

When your body doesn’t make enough ADH, the condition is called central diabetes insipidus. If you make enough but your kidneys can't respond to it, you have nephrogenic diabetes insipidus.

In either form, the result is the same. Your kidneys can't retain water, so even if you’re dehydrated, they'll put out a lot of pale, or diluted urine.

What Are the Symptoms?

When your kidneys can’t conserve water, you’ll:

  • Get really thirsty
  • Pee a lot -- this is known as polyuria

Some people get dehydrated.

If you lose too much water, you could have:

  • Unexplained weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle pains
  • Irritability

How Is It Diagnosed?

If you have this condition, you’ll probably wind up at the doctor for help with your thirst and constant need for a bathroom.

To diagnose you, the doctor will do a series of blood and urine tests that may take several hours. You’ll go without water the whole time, so you’ll get thirstier. Your doctor will measure the sodium in your blood and pee.

He may give you an ADH substitute to see if your kidneys respond by concentrating your urine. The lab test results and your response to the ADH help the doctor make the call.

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How Is It Treated?

First, the doctor will tell you to drink plenty of fluids. That will replace the constant loss of water.

If you have central diabetes insipidus, there are medications. Vasopressin (Pitressin) or desmopressin (DDAVP) can replace your missing ADH. It usually comes as a nasal spray. There are also treatments that can make these drugs work better.

Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus can be harder to treat. If it’s caused by a drug, stopping the medicine can help. Other medicines may improve the symptoms. These include indomethacin (Indocin), and diuretics like hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide) or amiloride (Moduretic 5-50).

How Serious Is It?

Diabetes insipidus doesn’t cause kidney failure or lead to dialysis. Your kidneys still do their main job, which is to filter your blood.

However, you will be more prone to dehydration. Make sure you always have something to drink close by especially when it’s hot or when you exercise.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on December 04, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

eMedicine: "Diabetes Insipidus."

MedicineNet: "Diabetes Insipidus."

Nephrogenic Diabetes Insipidus Foundation: "NDI Facts and Statistics."

Diabetes Insipidus Foundation: "What Is Diabetes Insipidus?"

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