Diabetes Insipidus - Diagnosis

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What tests and exams led to a diagnosis of diabetes insipidus?

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How is diabetes insipidus diagnosed?

Because diabetes mellitus is more common and because diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus have similar symptoms, a health care provider may suspect that a patient with diabetes insipidus has diabetes mellitus. But testing should make the diagnosis clear.

A doctor must determine which type of diabetes insipidus is involved before proper treatment can begin. Diagnosis is based on a series of tests, including urinalysis and a fluid deprivation test.

Urinalysis is the physical and chemical examination of urine. The urine of a person with diabetes insipidus will be less concentrated. Therefore, the salt and waste concentrations are low and the amount of water excreted is high. A physician evaluates the concentration of urine by measuring how many particles are in a kilogram of water or by comparing the weight of the urine with an equal volume of distilled water.

A fluid deprivation test helps determine whether diabetes insipidus is caused by one of the following:

  • excessive intake of fluid
  • a defect in ADH production
  • a defect in the kidneys' response to ADH

This test measures changes in body weight, urine output, and urine composition when fluids are withheld. Sometimes measuring blood levels of ADH during this test is also necessary.

In some patients, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain may be necessary as well.

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Comment from: Marty, 75 or over Female (Patient) Published: October 26

I am now a 77 year old female who in 1979 was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor. After watching it for a while they felt it would be prudent to try to remove the tumor. They did the surgery and all turned out well, within a week I was back home feeling no worse for the ordeal, my headaches were gone and I felt great. But after about three days I began to feel off balance and nauseated, and after five days I couldn't get out of bed without reeling and being very nauseas. At the end of the week home I began to violently throw up. It was like a fire hydrant. My husband called the hospital and they said to get me right in. After an hour ride on the ferry, throwing up all the way I reached the hospital. They told my husband later I was in a very critical position with diabetes insipidus and I had lost enough of my electrolytes for it to be very dangerous. I was mentally and physically out of it for the whole week. So don't let people tell you it is not dangerous, it can be life threatening under the right conditions. It took another week for me to return to the living and when I came home I was not to drink water tea or coffee, as they are all diuretics and make it easier to wash out everything. Diabetes insipidus is not something that just visits and is gone, the conditions in your body are still there regardless of how many years go by without incident. If the conditions are right your body will let you know.

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