Is Diabetes Insipidus Life-Threatening?

DI is caused by less production of antidiuretic hormone (ADH) in the body.
DI is caused by less production of antidiuretic hormone (ADH) in the body.

Diabetes insipidus (DI) is a rare and complex disease. It is not necessarily life-threatening or shortens a person’s life span. It doesn't cause kidney failure or lead to dialysis. Your kidneys are still able to filter your blood. Even some form of DI (DI in pregnancy) may resolve by itself.

However, DI can be a life-threatening condition if not properly diagnosed and manages some concerns such as described below.

Severe dehydration: Excessive urination may lead to increased chances of dehydration. It can happen at a moment’s notice. You should seek immediate care if you experience symptoms of more severe dehydration or if you notice the following:

A severe loss of body fluids and electrolytes imbalance can be deadlier if left untreated or not properly responded to or managed. Therefore, make sure you always have something to drink close by, especially when it's hot or when you exercise. In severe cases of this disease, it can be almost impossible to completely resolve the extreme thirst and frequent urination. This may hamper your daily life. 

It may further lead to other health complications such as neurologic symptoms and brain damage (encephalopathy).

What does diabetes insipidus mean?

Diabetes insipidus (DI) is an uncommon disease that manifests as a frequent urge for urination and extreme thirst. It has nothing to do with blood sugar levels. Although in both diabetes mellitus and insipidus, patients experience a large volume of urine production, the causes in both cases are different.

DI is caused by less production of antidiuretic hormone (ADH) in the body. This also named vasopressin. It is produced by your brain that instructs your kidneys to retain water. This hormone helps your kidneys to keep the correct amount of water in the body.

Normal people pass about one to two quarts of urine a day, whereas people with DI may pass 3-20 quarts of urine a day that makes them pee more often, sometimes every 15 minutes.

In DI, too much amount of water is pulled from the blood by the kidneys, which causes the body to create a lot of urine and lead to extreme thirst. Therefore, this condition is also named

What are the symptoms?

Diabetes Insipidus may present with the following symptoms:

  • Polydipsia (severe thirst that can’t be satisfied)
  • Polyuria (excessive peeing that is colorless)
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Failure to grow
  • Getting up frequently in the night to pee
  • Constipation
  • Weak muscles
  • Muscle pain 
  • Irritability
  • Bedwetting 


______________ is another term for type 2 diabetes. See Answer

What are the different types and causes of diabetes insipidus?

Diabetes Insipidus has the following subtypes depending on the causative factor affecting ADH production:

How is diabetes insipidus diagnosed?

Your doctor may check your medical history and family health history. The doctor may ask you about your daily fluid intake, diet, and bowel and bladder habits. After your physical examination, your doctor may order for

  • Urine sample test to diagnose this condition.
  • Blood tests to measure sodium (salt) and other electrolyte levels in the blood.
  • Water deprivation test to calculate the amount of urine passed.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain to check the details of brain damage and to look for problems with the pituitary gland (a gland inside the brain).
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans.

What are the treatment options?

Treatment of diabetes insipidus (DI) usually depends on the cause of this condition. The following modalities may be tried:

  • If you have mild DI, you may only need to increase your water intake.
  • A man-made hormone called desmopressin (DDAVP, Minirin, others) may replace the missing antidiuretic hormone (ADH). You can take desmopressin as a nasal spray, oral tablets, or injection.
  • Other medications may also be prescribed, such as Indocin and Tivorbex (indomethacin) and chlorpropamide may produce more ADH in the body.

In the nephrogenic DI, your doctor may prescribe a low-salt diet to help reduce the amount of urine your kidneys make. You'll also need to drink enough water to avoid dehydration.

What are the possible complications?

Diabetes Insipidus may present with the following possible complications:



National Organization for rare disease


Cleveland clinical Journal of Medicine (

The global diabetes community:

Europe PMC