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Diabetes Insipidus

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Diabetes Insipidus


Diabetes insipidus (DI) is when the kidneys pass a large amount of urine (pee) that is made up of mostly water.

There are 2 forms:

  • Central diabetes insipidus (central DI)
  • Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus (NDI)

Both types are treatable.


Central DI happens when the body does not make enough of a hormone that controls urine. The cause is not always known. Rarely, it can be from a faulty gene. Some causes are:

  • Inflammation
  • Surgery
  • Head injury
  • Tumors
  • Infection

NDI happens when the body makes the hormone that controls urine but the kidneys do not respond to it. Causes are:

  • Some medicines, such as lithium
  • Metabolic causes, such as too much calcium or too little potassium
  • Something that blocks the urinary tract
  • Not eating enough protein
Pituitary Gland.

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Risk Factors

DI is more common in people with other family members who have it. Central DI is more common in people with anterior pituitary hormone problems. NDI is more common in people who take lithium.


Symptoms may be:

  • Urinating (peeing) more, often at night
  • Being very thirsty

Babies and children may:

  • Be fussy
  • Feed poorly
  • Not gain weight
  • Urinate at night or wet the bed


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. An exam will be done. Blood and urine tests will also be done.

These tests may be done to find the cause:

  • MRI scan
  • Lumbar puncture to test the fluid around the spine
  • Biopsy


Central DI is treated with a man-made hormone. It takes the place of the hormone that a person's body makes to control urine.

NDI may be treated with:

  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Treating the cause, such as too much calcium in the blood
  • Stopping or changing medicines, such as lithium


There are no known ways to lower the risk of having DI.





  • Arginine vasopressin deficiency (central diabetes insipidus). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/central-diabetes-insipidus.
  • Diabetes insipidus. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/diabetes-insipidus.
  • Kavanagh C, Uy NS. Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2019;66(1):227-234.
  • Lu H. Diabetes insipidus. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2017;969:213-225.
  • Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/nephrogenic-diabetes-insipidus.


  • Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.