What is Central Diabetes Insipidus?

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  • Written By: Jacquelyn Gilchrist
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2019
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Central diabetes insipidus is a medical condition characterized by a hormonal imbalance. Patients with this disorder do not have enough of an anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), called vasopressin. Anti-diuretic hormones stabilize the body's fluid output. Central diabetes insipidus is unrelated to type 1 and type 2 diabetes, also called diabetes mellitus.

The hypothalamus gland in the human brain is responsible for manufacturing vasopressin. Vasopressin is then stored in the pituitary gland. When a person drinks more fluids than the body requires, the pituitary gland releases vasopressin. The release of the hormone then triggers the kidneys to reabsorb the water, rather than excreting it with urine. Reabsorbed water is integrated back into the bloodstream.

Central diabetes insipidus is a disruption in the regulation of the body's fluids. Without sufficient vasopressin, the patient's body loses excess water by excreting diluted urine. The typical cause for this disorder is some type of trauma or injury to the hypothalamus gland. Trauma to the pituitary gland can also cause this medical condition. Additionally, glandular damage may be caused by a tumor or even as a result of a surgical procedure. Some patients acquire this disorder after an illness, such as meningitis, or following a head injury as well. Occasionally, the exact cause is never determined.


The most common symptom of central diabetes insipidus is extreme thirst. Patients also typically noticed an abnormally high volume of diluted urine. Diluted urine has diminished color. Children with this condition may experience diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. They may also suffer from weight loss and delayed growth.

Patients with central diabetes insipidus may experience additional complications because of the disorder as well. The most common complication is dehydration, which may manifest as a dry mouth, fever, and headache. Patients may also experience low blood pressure, muscle weakness, and a rapid heart rate. Some people also notice weight loss and a “sunken” facial appearance.

If the disorder results in an electrolyte imbalance, the patient may also notice muscle pains, irritability, and fatigue. Electrolytes are a type of mineral, such as calcium, sodium, and potassium. These types of minerals also help regulate the body's fluids.

Patients with mild cases of central diabetes insipidus may only need to consume more water to treat the condition. Sometimes, a doctor may prescribe a certain quantity of water the patient should drink each day. This may help in cases where the hypothalamus is damaged, as that gland helps regulate a patient's thirst.

In other cases, the doctor may prescribe a synthetic version of vasopressin, called desmopressin. Desmopressin is typically available as a nasal spray or an oral tablet. It may also be taken as an injection. Patients taking this medication should follow their doctor's water recommendations carefully, as desmopressin typically interferes with the output of urine.


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