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Nephrogenic Diabetes Insipidus


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Apr 2020| Content last modified Apr 2020
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What is nephrogenic diabetes insipidus?

"Nephro-" means kidney, and "nephrogenic" means caused by the kidneys. Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus is a kidney problem where you pee a whole lot of very dilute, watery urine.

Normally, your kidneys balance the level of water in your body so you have just the right amount (water balance). But with nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, your body loses too much water through urination.

  • Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus can start soon after birth, or you can develop it later

  • You pee a whole lot—1 to 6 gallons (almost 4 to 24 liters) of urine a day

  • Because you pee so much, you get thirsty and drink a whole lot

  • Peeing and drinking so much throws off the balance of salts and minerals (electrolytes) in your body

  • You may become very dry (dehydrated)

  • Doctors make sure you drink enough water and not eat too much salt or protein

  • Sometimes, medicine can help

There's another kind of diabetes insipidus that's caused by a brain problem instead of a kidney problem. That's called central diabetes insipidus. Both types of diabetes insipidus have nothing to do with the very common type of diabetes (called diabetes mellitus), which is a problem with high blood sugar. However, high blood sugar also makes you pee a lot.

What causes nephrogenic diabetes insipidus?

Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus happens when your kidneys stop responding to a hormone called vasopressin. Vasopressin signals your kidneys to hold onto water and not pee so much. If your kidneys stop responding to vasopressin, you pee too much.

Causes of nephrogenic diabetes insipidus include:

What are the symptoms of nephrogenic diabetes insipidus?

Symptoms of nephrogenic diabetes insipidus include:

  • Feeling very thirsty

  • Urinating a lot (as much as 6 gallons [24 liters] a day)

In one type of nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, symptoms can start soon after birth. Babies may become very dehydrated and have symptoms such as:

  • Fever

  • Throwing up

  • Seizures

How can doctors tell if I have nephrogenic diabetes insipidus?

Doctors suspect nephrogenic diabetes insipidus if you're drinking and peeing a lot. To tell for sure, they'll do:

  • Blood tests

  • Urine tests

Sometimes, doctors do a water deprivation test.

How do doctors treat nephrogenic diabetes insipidus?

To treat nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, doctors will have you:

  • Drink water as soon as you feel thirsty—babies, children, and older adults with nephrogenic diabetes insipidus should be given water often

  • Eat foods that are low in salt and protein

  • Sometimes, take medicine that helps your kidneys reabsorb sodium and water so you urinate less

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