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What Is Diabetes Insipidus? Here’s What You Need to Know

What Is Diabetes Insipidus? Here’s What You Need to Know

What is diabetes insipidus? A lot of people might mistake diabetes insipidus as a form of diabetes, just like type 1 or type 2. However, diabetes insipidus and diabetes are completely different conditions, and are not even related to one another.

But what exactly is this disorder, what symptoms does it have, and how is it treated?

What Is Diabetes Insipidus?

Diabetes insipidus, or DI, is a condition that causes a person to urinate frequently. The term diabetes means “to pass” and insipidus means tasteless, and this literally translates to “passing tasteless urine.” The diabetes we are familiar with is diabetes mellitus, which means “passing sweet urine.”

This happens as a result of the body being unable to balance fluid levels1. In a healthy person, the kidneys filter the fluid in our blood in order to remove any waste material. The kidneys then return most of this fluid to the bloodstream, while a small amount becomes urine.

The body uses a hormone known as ADH, or anti-diuretic hormone, in order to return this fluid to the bloodstream. If anything affects the production of ADH and causes it to decrease or stop, then a person starts to produce a lot of urine. This is what’s known as diabetes insipidus.


Here are some of the possible symptoms of this disorder2:

  • Frequent urination
  • Regularly urinating pale or clear urine
  • Thirst
  • Waking up at night just to urinate

Babies or children with this disorder can manifest the following symptoms:

If left untreated, diabetes insipidus could lead to more serious complications. These include chronic dehydration, decreased temperature, hypotension or low blood sugar, fatigue, kidney damage, or even brain damage.

It is important to note that diabetes insipidus is a rare condition. If you are urinating frequently, it is not always a sign of DI. However, it’s still a good idea to visit your doctor since frequent urination is not normal.


The causes of this disorder can vary depending on what’s causing the body to urinate frequently. If the body has a lack of the hormone ADH, then it is known as central diabetes insipidus. This can be caused by the following:

  • Genetic problems
  • Head injury that damaged the pituitary gland or hypothalamus
  • Infection
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Tumors in or near the pituitary gland
  • Surgery that damaged the pituitary gland

On the other hand, this disorder can also be caused by an inability of the kidney to respond to ADH. This is also known as nephrogenic DI. In such cases, what happens is that the body is producing ADH normally, but for some reason, the kidney doesn’t respond. Here are some probable causes:

  • Taking certain medication, such as lithium
  • Genetic problems
  • Abnormally high levels of calcium in the body
  • Kidney disease


Treatment for DI can vary depending on the cause3. If it’s caused by the body not producing enough ADH, then an artificial hormone known as desmopressin might be prescribed. This doesn’t cure the condition, but it does help manage the symptoms of DI.

In the case of nephrogenic DI, the usual culprit is a problem with the kidneys. Treating that problem usually results in DI going away naturally. However, if this doesn’t work, doctors may prescribe medication to reduce urine production and help manage symptoms.

The prognosis for DI can vary depending on the cause. But for the most part, so long as the patient doesn’t have any serious problems with their health, treatment can be successful and the patient can live a normal and healthy life.

Learn more about Diabetes here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

  1. Diabetes insipidus – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes-insipidus/symptoms-causes/syc-20351269#:~:text=Diabetes%20insipidus%20(die%2Duh%2D,you%20have%20something%20to%20drink., Accessed October 6, 2021
  2. Diabetes insipidus: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000377.htm, Accessed October 6, 2021
  3. Diabetes Insipidus | NIDDK, https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/diabetes-insipidus, Accessed October 6, 2021
  4. Diabetes Insipidus – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470458/, Accessed October 6, 2021
  5. Diabetes insipidus – NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/diabetes-insipidus/, Accessed October 6, 2021
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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated 2 weeks ago
Fact Checked by Cesar Beltran