Diabetes is a health condition that is well-known around the world because of its prevalence in the recent years. The most common types of the disease are type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes with the latter being the highest occurring among all.
There are also other forms of the disease that are rare and not known by many. One of such types is diabetes insipidus. It is cited as the rarest form of diabetes that is diagnosed in one out of 25,000 people.
The particular type is also called ‘water diabetes’ since the affected person suffers from abnormally frequent, heavy urination and general poor health along with a lot of thirst which almost seems like impossible to get rid of.
The common types of diabetes are mostly linked to insulin resistance and the inability of the body to use insulin due to pancreas malfunction. Diabetes insipidus, on the other hand, is usually caused by a defect in the kidneys or in the pituitary gland.
The word insipidus used in the term comes from Latin and means tasteless. It is a reference to the urine passed by patients with diabetes insipidus which is low in sodium content, diluted, and odorless.
On the other hand, the word mellitus used in the term diabetes mellitus, which used for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, means sweet as the patients of this health condition usually pass urine which is high in sugars.
Contrary to the popular belief, diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus are not related although they share common characteristics such as people having either experience frequent urination and increased thirst.
People having diabetes insipidus do not have high blood-sugar levels unlike patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The main problem in diabetes insipidus is that the kidneys of the affected person are unable to balance fluid in the body.
Diabetes insipidus can considerably disturb any person’s life but the symptoms of the disease can be effectively managed with proper treatment and by following preventive measures.
What Is Diabetes Insipidus?
Diabetes insipidus is a health condition characterized by heavy and increased urination along with thirst. It can even affect a person during night time and hence disturb the sleep cycle. The issue can either be genetic and runs in families or acquired.
It is a part of acquired or hereditary polyuria which is a condition in which abnormal amount of urine is produced along with increased thirst or what is known as polydipsia in medical language.
The main causes of the disease are usually lack of anti-diuretic or vasopressin hormones in the body. What is vasopressin? It is a peptide that is formed in the hypothalamus and includes anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) and arginine vasopressin.
To know what causes diabetes insipidus, it is important to understand the functioning and role of vasopressin in the kidneys and fluid balancing in the body after it enters the blood by traveling to the posterior pituitary.
Generally, the kidneys are responsible for filtering around 120-150 quarts of blood which leads to the production of around 1-2 quarts of urine. The urine contains extra fluid and waste that is left behind after cleaning of the blood.
After the urine is produced, it travels from the kidneys to the bladder by tubes known as ureters. The body is thus, able to balance the fluid content by flushing out the extra liquid from the blood. Urination removes the excess liquid while thirst manages the liquid intake.
Extra fluid from the body is also lost through a number of other ways including breathing, diarrhea, and sweating.
Hypothalamus is a gland that is located at the base of the brain and controls a great many processes in the body. Malfunctioning in this particular gland can make way for a number of serious health issues in a person.
The hormone vasopressin is also produced by the hypothalamus and later stored in the pituitary gland to be added to the blood whenever the body is having a lower than needed fluid level.
Vasopressin is mainly responsible for signaling the kidney on the absorbing less fluid from the blood that causes reduced production of the urine. When the body has more than needed fluid, the pituitary gland tends to release little or no amount of vasopressin.
Little production of the hormone causes the kidneys to remove a lot of fluid from the blood and produce an increased amount of urine since there are no signals.
Hence, this malfunction of the hormone vasopressin is what leads to frequent and heavy urination in diabetes insipidus.
What Are The Signs of Diabetes Insipidus?
The most visible sign of the disease is an increase in urine production along with extreme thirst. The balance of the fluid in the body is achieved through urination, which removes extra liquid, and thirst, which gets the low fluid levels back to normal.
Generally, the normal amount of urine passed by a healthy person is less than three liters in a day. Patients with diabetes insipidus can have larger amounts of excretion of urine depending on the severity of the condition.
At the severe stages of the disease, a person can excrete as much as fifteen liters of urine a day because of drinking a lot of water. The patients might even lose control over their urination and wake up to a wet bed.
Children or infants with diabetes insipidus can show other signs of the disease such as fever, trouble in sleeping, diarrhea, weight loss, crying, excessively wet diapers, fussiness, constipation, vomiting and delayed growth.
Another symptom that is visible in both children and adults is dehydration which is a complication that comes with the disease. Signs of dehydration such as fatigue, dry skin, dizziness, extreme thirst, and nausea are often seen in people with diabetes insipidus.
Severe dehydration in patients with diabetes insipidus can also cause serious health problems such as permanent brain damage, seizures, and even death.
In addition, electrolyte imbalance is another effect of the disease that is commonly seen in the patients. The electrolytes such as potassium and sodium are nutrients that have important functions in the body from contraction of muscles to control the heartbeat.
Electrolytes are also present in fluid in the sweat, urine, and blood. Having an electrolyte imbalance can cause fever, headaches, anxiety, muscles spasms and aches, fatigue, irregular heartbeat, changes in body weight and appetite, and digestive problems.
How To Manage Diabetes Insipidus?
The health condition requires conventional treatment for avoiding any further complications but most of the health professionals agree that without prevention at home, the disease cannot be effectively managed.
The main thing that the patients with diabetes insipidus are told to avoid is dehydration which mainly causes most of the complications of the disease. It is advised to drink extra water on a daily basis as well as to carry water everywhere to make up for the water loss in excess urination.
Another advice given commonly by doctors is to include nutrient-dense foods in the diet. Some of the water-based foods that can help diabetes insipidus patients are cucumbers, kale, spinach, zucchini, kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, red cabbage, red peppers, watermelons, pineapple, and citrus fruits.
The patients are also told to avoid processed packaged food as they can cause water retention in the body because of high sodium content. Sodium may be an important electrolyte in the body but excess amounts of it can cause problems in balancing other electrolytes in the body.