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  • Pediatric Endocrine Program and Diabetes Center

    The Pediatric Endocrinology Program and Diabetes Center at MassGeneral Hospital for Children is an international referral center for the management of pediatric diabetes and endocrine disorders in children and adolescents.

    Contact the Pediatric Endocrine Program and Diabetes Center: 617-726-2909

About This Condition

Diabetes Insipidus

What is diabetes insipidus (DI)?

Diabetes insipidus occurs when your body doesn’t make enough antidiuretic hormone (ADH) or kidneys don’t respond to it. ADH helps keep the right amount of water in the body. Normally, ADH controls how much urine your kidneys' put out so that you don’t get dehydrated. If you were a bit dehydrated, ADH should increase.

ADH is secreted by the hypothalamus, a small gland at the base of the brain. It is stored in the pituitary gland and then released into the bloodstream as needed.

Diabetes insipidus is not related to the more common type of diabetes called diabetes mellitus.

What is the cause of diabetes insipidus?

There are several types of diabetes insipidus:

  • Central. This type occurs when the pituitary doesn’t make or secrete enough ADH. It can be a result of damage to the hypothalamus or pituitary gland. This can be caused by a head wound, a genetic problem, and other diseases.
  • Nephrogenic. This type occurs when the kidneys don’t respond to normal levels of ADH. It can be caused by drugs or chronic disorders, such as kidney disease, or sickle cell disease.
  • Dipsogenic. This condition is caused by a problem with the thirst feedback mechanism in the hypothalamus. It results in abnormal increases in fluid intake and thirst. This suppresses ADH production.
  • Gestational. This occurs only in pregnant women. In this type, an enzyme made by the placenta destroys ADH in the mother.

What are the symptoms of diabetes insipidus?

Common symptoms may include:

  • Great thirst
  • Excessive urine production
  • Dehydration

The symptoms of diabetes insipidus may look like other health problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is diabetes insipidus diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, tests for may include:

  • Urine tests
  • Blood tests
  • A formal water deprivation test to test for dehydration

How is diabetes insipidus treated?

Your health care provider will figure out the best treatment based on:

  • How old you are
  • Your overall health and medical history
  • How sick you are
  • How well you can handle specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • How long the condition is expected to last
  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment for diabetes insipidus depends on what is causing it.

  • For central and gestational types, treatment may include taking modified antidiuretic hormone drugs or drugs to stimulate the production of ADH.
  • In nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, other medicines are used.

For all types, specific fluid intake is needed.

There is no known treatment for dipsogenic diabetes insipidus.

What are the complications of diabetes insipidus?

If you don’t drink enough fluids, you can get dehydrated or have an electrolyte imbalance. Dehydration can cause:

  • Dry skin
  • Dry mouth, nose, and sinuses
  • Fever
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Eyes can appear sunken
  • Weight loss

Electrolyte imbalance can cause:

  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pains
  • Feeling very tired
  • Irritability

Living with diabetes insipidus

It’s important to follow your health care provider’s advice on medications and fluid intake to prevent complications.

When should I call my health care provider?

If your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms, call your health care provider right away.

Key points

  • Diabetes insipidus results when your body doesn’t make enough antidiuretic hormone. It is a rare disease that causes frequent urination.
  • It is not related to the more common type of diabetes called diabetes mellitus.
  • Symptoms may include extreme thirst and urine production, and dehydration.
  • Treatment for diabetes insipidus depends on what is causing the disease. It includes replacing the antidiuretic hormone with medications.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:

  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.


  • Mass General experts discuss diabetes - 11/3/2009, Mass General

    Our physicians discuss the education, management and prevention of diabetes, a condition affecting nearly 24 million adults and children in the United States.

  • Overcoming Barriers to Care - 6/22/2009, Mass General

    Massachusetts General Hospital develops model diabetes program to help close the gap in care.