Diabetes Insipidus Symptoms & Causes

How common is diabetes insipidus?
It’s very rare, occurring in approximately 1 in 30,000 children. Among those children who have diabetes insipidus, nearly 98 percent have the central variety, while 2 percent have the harder-to-treat nephrogenic type of the condition. 


What causes diabetes insipidus?
Both central and nephrogenic diabetes insipidus can be caused by several conditions, including:

  • Idiopathic (having no known cause)
    • approximately 30 to 50 percent of cases of diabetes insipidus are idiopathic
  • Tumor
  • Damage to the hypothalamus or pituitary gland during surgery
  • A hypothalamus that produces too little vasopressin)
  • A pituitary gland that fails to release vasopressin into the bloodstream)
  • Brain injury
  • Family heredity 

Diabetes insipidus can also become worse or first become apparent during pregnancy, because hormones released from the placenta can break down vasopressin, which can lead to a deficiency.


What are the symptoms of diabetes insipidus?
Each child may experience symptoms differently, but some of the most common symptoms of diabetes insipidus include: 

  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urine production— both during the day and at night
  • Dehydration 

Infants with diabetes insipidus may also exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Poor feeding
  • Failure to grow
  • High fevers

When is diabetes insipidus diagnosed?
Diabetes insipidus isn’t typically apparent at birth, but can be diagnosed when parents bring in an infant who is dehydrated. Other children are diagnosed with the condition after pituitary surgery, which can often cause a temporary form of diabetes insipidus.

Are there any other complications my child could have from diabetes insipidus?
Prompt diagnosis and treatment of diabetes insipidus in children is very important. If left untreated, the condition can lead to dehydration, which can cause brain damage or impaired mental function. 

What is the long-term outlook for my child?
Central diabetes insipidus can be a temporary or a permanent condition, depending on what’s causing it (for example, children who have pituitary surgery will often have central diabetes insipidus for one to two days after surgery). If the condition is permanent, it’s typically easily treated with a pill, so almost all children with central diabetes insipidus go on to lead full, healthy lives.

Children with nephrogenic diabetes insipidus can also lead relatively normal lives with proper medical care and management. Treatment for nephrogenic diabetes typically involves a fairly simply regiment of lifestyle changes. That’s why it’s so important to have a thorough diagnosis by a specialist—and begin treatment early.