Diagnosis and management of diabetes insipidus for the internist: an update

M Christ-Crain, B Winzeler, J Refardt
Journal of Internal Medicine 2021 March 13
Diabetes insipidus is a disorder characterized by excretion of large amounts of hypotonic urine. Four entities have to be differentiated: central diabetes insipidus resulting from a deficiency of the hormone arginine vasopressin (AVP) in the pituitary gland or the hypothalamus, nephrogenic diabetes insipidus resulting from resistance to AVP in the kidneys, gestational diabetes insipidus resulting from an increase in placental vasopressinase and finally primary polydipsia, which involves excessive intake of large amounts of water despite normal AVP secretion and action. Distinguishing between the different types of diabetes insipidus can be challenging. A detailed medical history, physical examination and imaging studies are needed to detect the aetiology of diabetes insipidus. Differentiation between the various forms of hypotonic polyuria is then done by the classical water deprivation test or the more recently developed hypertonic saline or arginine stimulation together with copeptin (or AVP) measurement. In patients with idiopathic central DI, a close follow-up is needed since central DI can be the first sign of an underlying pathology. Treatment of diabetes insipidus or primary polydipsia depends on the underlying aetiology and differs in central diabetes insipidus, nephrogenic diabetes insipidus and primary polydipsia. This review will discuss issues and newest developments in diagnosis, differential diagnosis and treatment, with a focus on central diabetes insipidus.

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