If you are having any symptoms or have any questions, please call 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day.
What is diabetes insipidus?
Despite the name, diabetes insipidus is not related to type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Diabetes insipidus is a hormone disorder that occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough antidiuretic hormone (ADH) or doesn’t use the hormone effectively. ADH helps your body balance water in the urine and blood.
What are the symptoms of diabetes insipidus?
There are several symptoms of diabetes insipidus, including:
- Extreme thirst
- Increased urine production up to 16 quarts a day
- Getting up multiple times in the night to urinate or wetting the bed
- Confusion and changes in alertness due to dehydration
CAUSES & RISK FACTORS
What causes diabetes insipidus?
Diabetes insipidus has several causes. In some people, a part of the brain (called the hypothalamus) doesn’t make enough antidiuretic hormone (ADH). In other cases, the pituitary gland doesn’t release enough of the hormone. Damage to either the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland can cause diabetes insipidus. This can occur after a head injury, during brain surgery or when a tumor grows on the glands.
Abnormalities in the kidneys can also cause diabetes insipidus. If the kidneys are abnormal, it can affect the way they process ADH. Diabetes insipidus can be caused by some medicines, such as lithium. About 30% of the time, healthcare providers can’t find the cause.
DIAGNOSIS & TESTS
How is diabetes insipidus diagnosed?
To check for diabetes insipidus, your healthcare provider may order one of several tests:
A urine test. This will show how much water is in your urine. It can rule out type 1 or type 2 diabetes. (If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, there will be excess sugar in your urine.)
A blood test. This will check for high sodium levels – another indication of diabetes insipidus.
A water deprivation test. This test can take several hours. You aren’t allowed to drink any liquids during this time. Your weight, urine and blood will be checked every hour.
An MRI (magnetic resonance image) scan. The scan can show problems in the brain that could be causing your diabetes insipidus.
Can diabetes insipidus be prevented or avoided?
Most of the time, diabetes insipidus is a permanent condition. You likely won’t be able to prevent it. It is often associated with another health problem, such as abnormal kidney function or tumors. Even though you can’t prevent it in these cases, you can often manage the symptoms.
How is diabetes insipidus treated?
If your symptoms are mild, you might not need treatment. However, your healthcare provider will want to check on you more often. Also, you should make sure you always have something to drink, so your body doesn’t get dehydrated.
For more severe cases of diabetes insipidus, medicine is available to help the body produce or more effectively use ADH. One medicine called desmopressin is a synthetic form of ADH and comes in pill form, as an injection (shot) or as a nasal spray. If you take desmopressin, you shouldn’t drink too much, or your body will get overloaded with fluids. Too much fluid in your body can make you feel sick, weak or dizzy.
Other treatments will depend on the cause of the illness:
If it is caused by kidney problems, your healthcare provider may recommend that you reduce salt in your diet and to drink enough water to avoid dehydration. Medicines like water pills may help your body balance salt and water.
If tumors or abnormal growths on your hypothalamus or pituitary gland are causing your diabetes insipidus, your healthcare provider may suggest surgery to remove the growths.
If a medicine is causing diabetes insipidus, your healthcare provider may prescribe another medicine that doesn’t cause excessive thirst and urination.
Contact your healthcare provider about which option is right for you.
Living with diabetes insipidus
There is no cure for diabetes insipidus. But you can work with your healthcare provider to manage the symptoms. Medicine can help prevent the constant thirst and excessive urination that comes with this condition. Preventing these symptoms will add a great deal to your quality of life.