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Therapeutic Response to Vasopressin

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Your levels of thirst and the amount you urinate all depend on a special hormone called vasopressin. Find out how this hormone is used therapeutically in this lesson.

Drinking & Urinating

Imagine just for a second that you are always extremely thirsty and passing large amounts of urine throughout the day. How much urine? About 5 times more than normal. Yikes!

What could possibly be the problem? Well, it may be that you have something called central diabetes insipidus, a condition caused by a lack of antidiuretic hormone as a result of something like a brain tumor. That's just the very basic gist of it, of course.

This lesson isn't about central diabetes insipidus though. It is, however, about antidiuretic hormone.

What Is Vasopressin?

The definition of central diabetes insipidus includes a special term: antidiuretic hormone (ADH), another name for vasopressin. Vasopressin is a very normal part of your body. It's a hormone that's produced by a structure in your brain called the hypothalamus. While it's produced in the hypothalamus, it's actually stored and released by another structure in the brain. After it's produced in the hypothalamus, vasopressin latches onto a protein and is carried to the pituitary gland. This gland, also a part of your brain, is the one that stores and secretes this hormone as necessary into your bloodstream.

The structure of vasopressin

Therapeutic Response to Vasopressin

So what therapeutic effect is vasopressin supposed to have and what does it all have to do with central diabetes insipidus? To understand this, let's get something basic out of the way first. The term antidiuretic hormone is actually quite descriptive of vasopressin's major therapeutic effect.

A diuretic, like the famous Lasix, is the more proper term for the lay term 'water-pill'. This means that a diuretic causes increased urine production. Logically, an anti-diuretic (like ADH), is then the exact opposite of this! It helps to preserve water within the body.

But if a person lacks enough naturally produced ADH, as per central diabetes insipidus, there's little to stop excess urine production by the body. Since the person is urinating out precious water en masse, they are also drinking like crazy to stay alive!

So if a patient has central diabetes insipidus and you were to give him/her vasopressin, then what would be the expected therapeutic response? Decreased urine production and thus decreased urinary output.

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