What is an Antidiuretic Hormone?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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Antidiuretic hormone, also known as ADH or vasopressin, is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. Its primarily role is to stimulate the kidneys to reabsorb water, rather than passing it, and it is designed to act as part of the complex system which regulates blood pressure and the balance of salts in the body. People with levels of this hormone which are too high or too low can experience medical problems such as diabetes insipidus.

Several circumstances can trigger production of antidiuretic hormone by the pituitary gland. Falls in blood pressure, changes in plasma volume, and secretions from the gall bladder can all play a role in the secretion of this hormone. The hormone travels to the kidneys, where it directs the structures in the kidneys to reabsorb the water which flows through the kidneys, and it also ends up in the brain, where it interfaces with vasopressin receptors. In the brain, vasopressin appears to play a role in the formation of memories, and it has been linked with certain social behaviors.


When levels of antidiuretic hormone rise, the blood pressure rises as well. If levels of this hormone get too high, people develop fluid overload, and the levels of salts in their body go out of balance, becoming heavily diluted because the body is retaining too much water. This can develop into hyponatremia, a very serious medical condition which can cause complications with the brain and lungs. If there is not enough antidiuretic hormone being produced by the pituitary gland, people can develop diabetes insipidus, characterized by excessive thirst and frequent urination.

Hospitalized patients sometimes develop syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone (SIADH). Patients with this condition secrete too much antidiuretic hormone, stressing the body and leading to fluid and electrolyte imbalances. Because SIADH is known to be a problem in hospitalized patients, regular screening may be performed as a routine part of patient care to ensure that it is identified and addressed early.

If patients develop a deficiency or excess of this hormone, a doctor will need to interview the patient and perform screening to determine the cause of the problem so that it can be addressed. Treatments may be able to restore the body to normal function, or a patient's condition could be managed with the appropriate care. Failure to identify over or underproduction of antidiuretic hormone can have complications for the patient, and it may lead to permanent damage.


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Post 4

I was born with diabetes insipidus. In my case, it was due to a genetic disorder.

To make my pituitary excrete the proper amount of antidiuretic hormone, I had to start getting injections of a synthetic hormone called desmopressin. After the first few injections, my doctor switched me to a nasal spray that did the same thing. The nasal spray started to irritate my sinuses, so he finally wound up prescribing it in pill form. All of the forms seemed to work equally well.

He told me to only drink when thirsty while on this medicine. It prevents my body from excreting water, and water could have built up easily.

Post 3

@seag47 - It does seem counterproductive to health to drink less water. I had to do that for my condition. I got diagnosed with SIADH, and I have had to make some major lifestyle changes because of it.

My doctor said that I didn’t need medication. The best and only treatment is water restriction. I used to work out a lot, but now it is hard, because I can’t drink enough water to replace the fluids I would lose. I have to do low-impact aerobics to avoid sweating too much.

Dehydration is a big risk for me with this condition. Also, if I get a fever, I have to seek treatment right away, because you’re supposed to drink more fluids with a fever, and I can’t.

Post 2

My antidiuretic hormone levels got too high once. I was on my way to hyponatremia, but I got to the doctor in time to prevent it.

I started retaining a scary amount of water. What began with just slightly swelled ankles ended with really fat feet and squishy legs. I am kind of thin, so I noticed it right away.

The antidepressant I had been taking played a part. I had to stop taking it, drink less water, and consume more sodium. These are seem like really unhealthy steps to take to treat a condition, but other than quitting the medication, they were only temporary.

Post 1

I am enrolled in a clinical study drug trial for a drug to treat polycystic kidney disease. This condition involves the production of multiple cysts on my kidneys, and the purpose of the drug is to shrink the cysts and prevent new ones from forming.

The drug suppresses antidiuretic hormone function. It makes me very thirsty so that I drink enough water to flush out my kidneys. I have to urinate very often. They told me to expect this, because it is the whole point of the drug.

My kidneys need to get rid of excess water so that they don’t form cysts and retain a lot of pressure in an already cramped space. They have become enlarged due to the disease, and unlike regular kidneys that get protection by the rib cage, mine extend below it.

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