Diabetes Insipidus: Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
In this lesson, you're going to learn about the basics of a condition called diabetes insipidus, its two major forms, the major signs and symptoms, and potential treatment options.

Diabetes Insipidus

It's hard enough for many people to get a restful night's sleep. What, with all the noises coming from the street, neighbors, or simply the stress of daily life keeping them awake. Other people aren't bothered by any of that. Instead, they have a fitful night of sleep because they constantly have to go to the bathroom.

There are many medical conditions that can lead to this but for this lesson's sake it's a sign of diabetes insipidus. Diabetes insipidus is a disorder that leads to the excessive production of diluted, odorless urine as a result of the body's improper production of, or response to, a hormone called antidiuretic hormone (ADH).

This lesson will go over the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for diabetes insipidus.


Before we begin, let's highlight the major causes of diabetes insipidus. One is central, or in other words, pertains to a problem in the brain. If the brain is injured due to something like brain surgery or a brain tumor, it may stop producing and secreting enough ADH. This means the kidneys don't receive the signal to stop making urine.

The other major cause of diabetes insipidus is nephrogenic. In other words, it's a problem with the kidneys ('nephro-'). Here, the brain makes enough ADH but the kidneys pay no attention to it and continue to make the urine unabated. Certain medications can cause the kidneys to do this. But how does a person identify diabetes insipidus?

Signs & Symptoms of Diabetes Insipidus

If diabetes insipidus leads to the excessive production of urine, what do you think will happen? Well, the logical response would be an excessive excretion of urine, or having to go to the bathroom all the time. The proper term for this is polyuria. 'Poly-' means many or much while '-uria' refers to urine.

What do you think excessive urination leads to? Think about it: by urinating a lot you lose a lot of body water. Losing a lot of body water is like not getting enough water in the first place. When you don't get enough water, you become what? Thirsty.

Excessive thirst, combined with the consumption of a lot of liquids, is called polydipsia. You already know what 'poly' means. '-dipsia' refers to thirst.

A third sign of diabetes insipidus was given away in the introduction. That is to say, a need to urinate at night. The proper term for this is nocturia. You already know what '-uria' refers to. 'Noct-' refers to night, like something 'noct'urnal is awake at night.

Polyuria, polydipsia, and nocturia are the most important and common initial signs of diabetes insipidus.

Treatment of Diabetes Insipidus

If diabetes insipidus is not treated, it can potentially be lethal. The way the disorder is treated all depends on exactly what kind of diabetes insipidus is present. The two major kinds of diabetes insipidus are:

  • Central diabetes insipidus. This is where the brain doesn't secrete enough ADH. This causes the kidneys to produce a lot of urine.
  • Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus. 'Nephro-' refers to the kidneys and '-genic' refers to 'produced by'. In other words, this form of diabetes insipidus is produced by a problem in the kidneys. That problem is a lack of an appropriate response to the ADH that's initially produced and secreted by the brain. This means the kidneys simply pay no attention to the ADH, which normally tells the kidneys to stop making urine.

So how are the two major forms of diabetes insipidus treated then? Remember, if someone has central diabetes insipidus that means the brain doesn't produce or secrete enough ADH. The kidneys are just fine in this case. They simply don't have a signal (the ADH) telling them to stop making urine. In this case, a person is given a medication called desmopressin. This synthetic hormone is like a substitute for the ADH. In other words, it tells the kidneys to stop making too much urine just like ADH would.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account