Diabetes Insipidus

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Diabetes insipidus is caused by low levels of antidiuretic hormone (ADH). ADH is made by a gland in the brain called the hypothalamus and it is stored in the pituitary gland. 

ADH helps your child’s kidneys regulate the amount of water in the body. In diabetes insipidus, the body doesn't retain enough water. 

There are two types of diabetes insipidus. These are:

  • Central diabetes insipidus results when not enough ADH is made by your child’s body.
  • Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus results when the kidneys don’t respond to ADH as they should. 


Depending on the cause, diabetes insipidus may be permanent. Some causes may include:

  • Low production of ADH by the thalamus
  • Improper release of ADH into the body by the pituitary
  • Injury to the hypothalamus or pituitary gland
  • Meningitis or encephalitis (types of inflammation affecting the brain)
  • Brain tumor
  • Blockage in the blood vessels of the brain
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Genetic condition
  • Certain medicines

Symptoms of Diabetes Insipidus

Symptoms may be different for each child. Your child may experience:

  • Excessive thirst or dehydration
  • Frequent urination
  • Irritability
  • Poor appetite
  • High fever
  • Growth problems

Diagnosis and Treatment at UVA Health Children's

At UVA Health Children's, your child’s doctor may perform or recommend:

  • Urine examinations
  • Blood tests
  • Water deprivation test
  • MRI

Treatment for diabetes insipidus will depend on the cause. Your child will need to drink often and your child’s urine frequency must be monitored. Treatment may also include:

  • Medications to stimulate the body to produce ADH
  • Synthetic ADH