What is Diabetes Insipidus?
Diabetes insipidus (DI) is a rare disease that causes frequent urination. The large volume of urine is diluted, mostly water. To make up for lost water, a person with DI may feel the need to drink large amounts and is likely to urinate frequently, even at night, which can disrupt sleep and, on occasion, cause bedwetting. Because of the excretion of abnormally large volumes of dilute urine, people with DI may quickly become dehydrated if they do not drink enough water. Children with DI may be irritable or listless and may have fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. Milder forms of DI can be managed by drinking enough water, usually between 2 and 2.5 liters a day. DI severe enough to endanger a person’s health is rare.
What is the difference between Diabetes Insipidus and Diabetes Mellitus?
DI should not be confused with diabetes mellitus (DM), which results from insulin deficiency or resistance leading to high blood glucose, also called blood sugar. DI and DM are unrelated, although they can have similar signs and symptoms, like excessive thirst and excessive urination.
DM is far more common than DI and receives more news coverage. DM has two main forms, type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. DI is a different form of illness altogether.
How is Fluid in the Body Normally Regulated?
The body has a complex system for balancing the volume and composition of body fluids. The kidneys remove extra body fluids from the bloodstream. These fluids are stored in the bladder as urine. If the fluid regulation system is working properly, the kidneys make less urine to conserve fluid when water intake is decreased or water is lost, for example, through sweating or diarrhea. The kidneys also make less urine at night when the body’s metabolic processes are slower.
The hypothalamus makes antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which directs the kidneys to make less urine.
To keep the volume and composition of body fluids balanced, the rate of fluid intake is governed by thirst, and the rate of excretion is governed by the production of antidiuretic hormone (ADH), also called vasopressin. This hormone is made in the hypothalamus, a small gland located in the brain. ADH is stored in the nearby pituitary gland and released into the bloodstream when necessary. When ADH reaches the kidneys, it directs them to concentrate the urine by reabsorbing some of the filtered water to the bloodstream and therefore make less urine. DI occurs when this precise system for regulating the kidneys’ handling of fluids is disrupted.
What are the Types of Diabetes Insipidus?
The most common form of serious DI, central DI, results from damage to the pituitary gland, which disrupts the normal storage and release of ADH. Damage to the pituitary gland can be caused by different diseases as well as by head injuries, neurosurgery, or genetic disorders. To treat the ADH deficiency that results from any kind of damage to the hypothalamus or pituitary, a synthetic hormone called desmopressin can be taken by an injection, a nasal spray, or a pill. While taking desmopressin, a person should drink fluids only when thirsty and not at other times. The drug prevents water excretion, and water can build up now that the kidneys are making less urine and are less responsive to changes in body fluids.
Nephrogenic DI results when the kidneys are unable to respond to ADH. The kidneys’ ability to respond to ADH can be impaired by drugs—like lithium, for example—and by chronic disorders including polycystic kidney disease, sickle cell disease, kidney failure, partial blockage of the ureters, and inherited genetic disorders. Sometimes the cause of nephrogenic DI is never discovered.
Desmopressin will not work for this form of DI. Instead, a person with nephrogenic DI may be given hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) or indomethacin. HCTZ is sometimes combined with another drug called amiloride. The combination of HCTZ and amiloride is sold under the brand name Moduretic. Again, with this combination of drugs, one should drink fluids only when thirsty and not at other times.
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