What are Diabetes Insipidus Symptoms?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The telltale symptoms of diabetes insipidus are increased thirst and urination. Since these symptoms are associated with a number of conditions, including diabetes mellitus, diagnostic testing will need to be performed to determine the cause of the symptoms. Usually, treatment starts with a general practitioner, who may refer a patient to a specialist if necessary.

One symptom of diabetes insipidus is increased thirst.
One symptom of diabetes insipidus is increased thirst.

It is important to be aware that diabetes insipidus and diabetes mellitus are not related, despite the similarities in the names. While both are associated with increased thirst and urination, the causes are different and the treatment approaches are also different. In the case of patients with diabetes insipidus, the kidneys have trouble conserving water due to a hormone imbalance, leading the body to crave fluid even as it excretes highly dilute urine. There is a risk of dehydration for patients with this condition.

Despite their similar names, diabetes insipidus is not related to type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Despite their similar names, diabetes insipidus is not related to type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

People of all ages who develop this condition will show diabetes insipidus symptoms like increased thirst, consumption of large amounts of fluids, and frequent urination. Many people crave cold water or ice specifically, and the urine is heavily diluted. Even with all the fluid consumption, signs of dehydration can occur as well. Younger patients may develop nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Diabetes insipidus symptoms in the young also include a failure to grow and thrive.

Other diabetes insipidus symptoms include a need to urinate at night, or to urinate during the night more frequently than usual. Some patients experience bedwetting. People sometimes refer to this condition as “water diabetes" to contrast with with diabetes mellitus or “sugar diabetes.” The symptoms of diabetes mellitus are similar, but patients also develop issues such as blurred vision, hunger, and nausea. These differences can help doctors differentiate between the two conditions and arrive at a diagnosis more quickly.

Diabetes insipidus can be caused by a number of different things, including medications, tumors, and genetic conditions. When diabetes insipidus symptoms are identified, diagnostic testing can be used to determine what is causing the hormone imbalance that is leading to the problem. This information can be used to develop a treatment plan. Treating the underlying cause, if possible, is a first step, and there are also medications available for diabetes insipidus treatment.

People who notice diabetes insipidus symptoms, like sudden changes in the amount of fluids they consume, paired with frequent urination should discuss the issue with a doctor, unless there is a compelling and obvious reason, such as hot weather, leading to increased water consumption. Catching medical problems early makes them much easier to treat and can help people avoid permanent damage.

A physician may order tests if the patient exhibits signs of diabetes insipidus or has high risk factors.
A physician may order tests if the patient exhibits signs of diabetes insipidus or has high risk factors.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


My aunt has diabetes insipidus. She had a tumor in her pituitary gland that was removed several years ago. Consequently, she started drinking more and more water and going to the bathroom very frequently. I think she was drinking more than two gallons of water a day. She was also nauseated sometimes and would complain about having bad eye sight that would come and go.

We were afraid that the tumor came back but after running a couple of tests, the doctor said that she had diabetes insipidus. She is now taking anti-diuretic (ADH) hormone regularly. She is not drinking water as much as she used to and the dehydration symptoms she suffered from are gone.


@ysmina-- The main symptom that can help you differentiate between them is the concentration of your urine. The urine of diabetes insipidus patients will be clear whereas with diabetes mellitus patients, it will be more concentrated.

Also, since diabetes insipidus patients don't have a lack of insulin or insulin resistance, their blood sugar levels will be in the normal range. A glucose tolerance test can definitely show you whether you have diabetes mellitus or diabetes insipidus. Additionally, people with diabetes insipidus are at a greater risk to be dehydrated as the article said.


Seeing that diabetes insipidus and diabetes mellitus symptoms are so similar, how can someone tell that they have one and not the other? Which symptoms differentiate diabetes insipidus from diabetes mellitus?

I have both of the major symptoms of diabetes insipidus. I'm always thirsty, no matter how much water I drink. And I get up to go to the bathroom at least two or three times at night. At first I was suspecting diabetes mellitus, but now that I have read about diabetes insipidus, I'm confused. I don't have diabetes mellitus in my family, but other than that, I have no idea what I might be suffering from.

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