While diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus have similar names and may present with similar symptoms, the conditions are unrelated. The former relates to blood sugar regulation, while the latter refers to urine concentration.
Diabetes mellitus is a group of conditions that impair the body’s ability to process blood sugar, or glucose. The most common types of diabetes include type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. While the exact cause differs between the types, difficulty regulating blood sugar typically relates to issues with the pancreas and how the body uses or produces the hormone insulin.
Diabetes insipidus describes a condition that affects the body’s ability to maintain fluid balance. It occurs when the body is unable to produce a hormone called vasopressin, or when the kidneys do not respond to this hormone. This means the kidneys cannot prevent water excretion or properly concentrate urine.
This article outlines the differences between diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus, including causes, diagnosis, and treatments.
Diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus are not related. The naming and some symptoms of the conditions may be similar, but they have very different causes and treatment options.
The naming of the conditions is confusing and refers to an old diagnostic method for differentiating between the two. The term diabetes derives from the ancient Greek word meaning to pass through. Both mellitus and insipidus are Latin terms for sweet and tasteless.
As both conditions share symptoms of increased thirst and frequent urination, physicians would use a urine sample to distinguish between them. They would dip a finger in the sample to test if the urine was sweet, suggesting diabetes mellitus, or tasteless, indicating diabetes insipidus.
Both conditions involve different organs and hormones. Diabetes mellitus may involve the pancreas and occurs due to issues with
Diabetes insipidus instead involves the kidneys and issues with
As such, treatments for each condition differ as they attempt to treat the underlying cause or provide medications to replenish levels of these hormones.
Additionally, other symptoms of diabetes mellitus
- polyphagia, or excessive hunger
- weight loss
- vision changes
- tingling in the extremities
- dry skin
- slow healing wounds
- frequent infections
Other symptoms of diabetes insipidus can include:
Diabetes mellitus usually
- Type 1 diabetes: This type is an autoimmune disease. This means a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. In this case, the immune system damages the beta cells present in the pancreas, meaning it can no longer produce enough insulin.
- Type 2 diabetes: This type occurs due to insulin resistance. This refers to when the body no longer responds to insulin correctly. The pancreas may attempt to produce more insulin to compensate but eventually is unable to keep up.
- Gestational diabetes: A person experiences this type of diabetes during pregnancy. It also occurs due to insulin resistance. The placenta releases hormones that interfere with how well insulin can function, causing blood sugars to rise.
Typically, diabetes insipidus
- Central diabetes insipidus: This type occurs due to a reduction or absence of vasopressin. It can be primary central diabetes insipidus, which is present from birth, or secondary, which a person may acquire due to brain lesions resulting from head injuries, cancers, or brain surgery.
- Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus: This type results from how the kidneys respond to vasopressin. It can occur due to kidney cysts, kidney infections, or certain medications.
- Gestational diabetes insipidus: In some cases, pregnancy
can affectvasopressin levels. This is typically due to the placenta releasingan enzyme that reduces vasopressin levels.
- Dipsogenic diabetes insipidus: Issues with the hypothalamus can cause this type of diabetes insipidus. Issues can result from damage to the hypothalamus, mental health conditions, or certain medications.
As diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus may initially present with similar symptoms, they are often a differential diagnosis for each other. A doctor will first perform a physical examination, view medical history, and ask about symptoms. They will then typically request tests, such as urine and blood tests, to help differentiate the conditions.
For example, different types of blood tests can
The main goal for both conditions is to restore either blood sugar or urine concentration to appropriate levels. A person can typically achieve both of these through a combination of medications and lifestyle behaviors.
For type 1 diabetes,
A doctor will also suggest certain lifestyle behaviors to help manage blood sugars for type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. These
For diabetes insipidus, treatment typically involves the administration of desmopressin. This is a synthetic version of vasopressin available in different forms, such as a tablet, injection, and nasal spray. For nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, a doctor will instead treat the underlying cause, which
Diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus are different and unrelated conditions. Diabetes mellitus typically relates to issues with insulin and regulating blood sugars, while diabetes insipidus occurs due to issues with vasopressin and urine concentration.
A doctor may be able to diagnose either condition from blood and urine tests. To help treat and manage both conditions, a doctor can prescribe medications and suggest lifestyle changes to help a person control their blood sugars and urine concentration.