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General Information

DEFINITION--A rare disorder of the hormone system, centered in the pituitary gland.

BODY PARTS INVOLVED--Pituitary gland; endocrine system.

SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED--Both sexes; all ages.


  • Excessive thirst that is difficult to satisfy.
  • Passage of large amounts (up to 15 quarts a day) of diluted, colorless urine.
  • Dry hands.
  • Constipation.


    Deficiency of an antidiuretic (ADH) hormone normally secreted by the pituitary gland. The deficiency may result from the following:

  • Head injury, with damage to the pituitary gland.
  • Tumor of the pituitary gland.
  • Other brain tumor that applies pressure to the pituitary gland.
  • Infection in the brain, such as encephalitis or meningitis.
  • Bleeding inside the skull.
  • Aneurysm.
  • Kidney disease.


  • Preceding illness or injury in the brain.
  • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
  • Family history of diabetes insipidus.

HOW TO PREVENT--No specific preventive measures.

What To Expect


  • Your own observation of symptoms.
  • Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
  • Laboratory studies, such as water-deprivation tests to determine levels of ADH.


  • Doctor's treatment.
  • Treatment involves controlling fluid balance and preventing dehydration; identifying and eliminating the cause of the diabetes insipidus.
  • Surgery if a tumor or aneurysm is present.

POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONS--Electrolyte imbalance, especially increased sodium or potassium deficiency. Either of these can cause heartbeat irregularity, fatigue and congestive heart failure.


  • If the disorder is caused by a tumor or aneurysm, it can be cured by surgery.
  • If the disorder is caused by a head injury, spontaneous recovery is likely within a year.
  • If the disorder is caused by a preceding brain infection, symptoms may persist indefinitely.

How To Treat


  • If brain surgery is necessary, see Craniotomy (in Surgery section) for an explanation of surgery and postoperative care.
  • Check weight daily and maintain a record.

MEDICATION--Your doctor may prescribe synthetic ADH in nose drops, powder or injection form.

ACTIVITY--No restrictions.

DIET--No special diet. Drink as much water as you feel you need.

Call Your Doctor If

  • You have symptoms of diabetes insipidus.
  • Symptoms don't improve, despite treatment.
  • New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in treatment may produce side effects.
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