Diabetes insipidus is a rare but treatable condition in which your body produces too much urine and isn’t able to properly retain water. Diabetes insipidus can be chronic (life-long) or temporary and mild or severe depending on the cause.
Causes of Diabetes Insipidus
Damage to your hypothalamus or your pituitary gland from surgery.
Damage to your hypothalamus or pituitary gland from a head injury, particularly basal skull fractures.
Inflammation (granulomas) from sarcoidosis or tuberculosis.
Tumors that affect your hypothalamus or pituitary gland.
An autoimmune reaction that causes your immune system to damage healthy cells that make an antidiuretic hormone (ADH).
An inherited gene mutation on chromosome 20.
Certain medications, such as lithium and tetracycline.
Low levels of potassium in your blood (hypokalemia).
High levels of calcium in your blood (hypercalcemia).
A blocked urinary tract.
Symptoms of Diabetes Insipidus
The main symptoms of diabetes insipidus include:
Needing to pee often, including through the night.
Passing large amounts of light-colored or clear urine each time you pee.
Feeling very thirsty and drinking liquids very often.
While most people produce one to three quarts of urine a day, people with diabetes insipidus can produce up to 20 quarts of urine a day.
If diabetes insipidus isn’t treated or if a person with diabetes insipidus stops drinking fluids, it can quickly lead to dehydration.
Symptoms of dehydration include:
Feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
Having a dry mouth, lips and eyes.
Difficulty performing simple mental tasks.
Diagnosis of Diabetes Insipidus
Blood test to check antidiuretic hormone (ADH, or vasopressin) levels.
Blood test to check glucose levels to rule out diabetes mellitus.
Urinalysis to check osmolality (the concentration of your urine) and/or to check for ketones, which could indicate diabetes mellitus.
Imaging tests, such as an MRI, to see if issues with your pituitary gland or hypothalamus are causing your diabetes insipidus.
Complications of Diabetes Insipidus
The main complication of diabetes insipidus is dehydration, which happens when your body loses too much fluid and electrolytes to work properly.
If you have diabetes insipidus, you can usually make up for the significant volume of fluids you pass in your urine by drinking more liquids.
But if you don’t, you could quickly become dehydrated.
Dehydration is dangerous and can be life-threatening.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of dehydration, such as feeling dizzy, nauseous and sluggish, get to the nearest hospital as soon as possible.
Treatment of Diabetes Insipidus
Desmopressin is the first-line treatment for central diabetes insipidus.
It’s a medication that works like an antidiuretic hormone (ADH, or vasopressin).
You can take desmopressin as an injection (shot), a pill or in a nasal spray.
Healthcare providers often treat it with medications called thiazide diuretics, which reduce the amount of urine your kidneys produce.
Your provider may also suggest taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, to help further reduce urine volume when they’re used in combination with thiazide diuretics.
If your medication causes nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, your healthcare provider can sometimes treat it by changing your medication.