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What is Diabetes Insipidus?

By Valeria Ruiz


  • Diabetes Insipidus (DI) is a rare condition that is caused by the imbalance of fluids in the body.

  • DI is not a type of diabetes.

  • Constant urination and thirst are the most common symptoms of DI.

  • Depending on which type of DI a person is diagnosed with, the doctor will give them specific treatments and medications.

  • Researchers are looking for volunteers to work on DI research!


During the day, our blood is filtered many times by our kidneys. When that happens, most of the water is reabsorbed and a small amount of urine is excreted. That urine excreted is controlled by the antidiuretic hormone, also known as ADH. But have you ever felt constantly thirsty and the need to constantly urinate? Well, you may have a very rare condition, known as diabetes insipidus (DI).

What is DI?

Diabetes insipidus is a rare condition that is caused by the imbalance of fluids in our bodies. It causes a person to be constantly thirsty, causing them to drink and urinate a lot. While people normally urinate 1-3 quarters of fluids a day, people with DI urinate up to 20 quarters a day. Those people who have the need to urinate constantly have a disorder called polyuria. DI is not linked to diabetes, but they tend to have the same symptoms.


  • The constant need to urinate, day and night

  • Light-colored urine

  • Thirst

Severe dehydration can lead to seizures, brain damage, and maybe death. Seek emergency care right away if you feel these symptoms:

  • Dizzy

  • Sluggish

  • Confused

Diabetes insipidus also causes electrolyte imbalance, which is when the sodium and potassium in our blood is imbalanced. Sodium and potassium, which are the electrolytes, keeps our body fluid balanced.


Diabetes insipidus is caused by problems with vasopressin (AVP), another name for ADH. Due to those problems, the AVP doesn’t have the ability to balance the level of water the body has, leading to increased urine output. There are different types of DI, and they all have different causes. Those different types are:

  • Central diabetes insipidus

  • Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus

  • Gestational diabetes insipidus

  • Primary polydipsia

Exams and Tests

When visiting the doctor, they’ll first ask about medical history and symptoms. After that, the doctor may order some test and they may be one of the following:

  • Urinalysis

  • MRI of the head

  • Urine output

  • Vasopressin test

  • Water deprivation test

  • Serum copeptin level


One of the main ways to treat diabetes insipidus is by drinking enough fluids to keep the body hydrated. But this might not be the best way to treat, since one’s lifestyle will be disrupted, such as sleep. The patient might need a specialist, such as an endocrinologist or nephrologist, to know which type of DI they have and to get a specific type of medication. Some treatments can be:

  • Desmopressin

  • Balancing the calcium and potassium in the boy

  • Diuretics

  • Chewing on ice and sugar free candies to moisten the mouth

There is no research evidence that nutrition prevents DI, but doctors recommend a low sodium and protein diet.

Clinical Trials for Diabetes Insipidus

The NIDDK is still looking for students and volunteers to kickstart research for DI. Here is a list of trial studies being done on DI that are open to recruiting:



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