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Diabetes insipidus

  • Definition

    Diabetes insipidus is a condition in which the kidneys are unable to conserve water.

    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Diabetes insipidus (DI) is an uncommon condition that occurs when the kidneys are unable to conserve water as they perform their function of filtering blood. The amount of water conserved is controlled by antidiuretic hormone (ADH), also called vasopressin.

    ADH is a hormone produced in a region of the brain called the hypothalamus. It is then stored and released from the pituitary gland, a small gland at the base of the brain.

    DI caused by a lack of ADH is called central diabetes insipidus. When DI is caused by a failure of the kidneys to respond to ADH, the condition is called nephrogenic diabetes insipidus.

    Central diabetes insipidus can be caused by damage to the hypothalamus or pituitary gland as a result of:

    • Head injury
    • Infection
    • Surgery
    • Tumor

    There is also a form of central diabetes insipidus that runs in families.

    Nephrogenic DI involves a defect in the parts of the kidneys that reabsorb water back into the bloodstream. It occurs less often than central DI. Nephrogenic DI may occur as an inherited disorder in which male children receive the abnormal gene that causes the disease from their mothers.

    Nephrogenic DI may also be caused by:

    • Certain drugs (such as lithium, amphotericin B, and demeclocycline)
    • High levels of calcium in the body (hypercalcemia)
    • Kidney disease (such as polycystic kidney disease)