Diabetes insipidus causes persistent thirst and frequent urination due to not having enough of the hormone vasopressin. Pituitary tumors and pituitary surgery are two potential causes.

Diabetes insipidus is a rare condition estimated to affect 1 in 25,000 people worldwide. The most common cause is damage to the parts of your brain that produce and secrete vasopressin called the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, respectively.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 10,000 people receive a diagnosis of pituitary tumors each year in the United States. Most of these tumors are noncancerous, but they can still cause other issues if they press on your pituitary gland or other brain tissue.

Read on to learn more about the connection between pituitary tumors and diabetes insipidus.

Diabetes insipidus is usually caused when not enough of the hormone called vasopressin is released or your kidney doesn’t properly respond to this hormone.

Vasopressin is produced by a part of your brain called the hypothalamus and secreted through a gland at the base of your brain called the posterior pituitary gland.

Tumors on your pituitary gland or surrounding parts of your brain can push on the tissue in your posterior pituitary gland and cause vasopressin to not be secreted normally. When this happens, your kidneys don’t receive the signal that they should retain more water. Insufficient levels of vasopressin lead to persistent thirst and frequent urination.

The most common type of pituitary tumor is called adenoma. Adenomas develop in the anterior part of your pituitary gland and rarely cause diabetes insipidus. They usually only compress your posterior pituitary gland when they grow very large.

The development of diabetes insipidus is more common among people with a rarer type of tumor called craniopharyngioma. These tumors are extremely rare, affecting an estimated 1 person per 500,000–2 million per year.

Diabetes insipidus has been reported in 7–48% of people with craniopharyngioma. These tumors usually develop between the ages of 5–14 years old or 50–74 years old.

Diabetes insipidus has also been reported as a complication of cancers that have spread to your pituitary gland from other locations. About 1.8% of people with cancer have tumors that spread to their pituitary gland. Two-thirds of these people have lung cancer or breast cancer.

Diabetes insipidus is a condition characterized by not enough vasopressin being secreted and an imbalance in your body’s water supply.

It doesn’t cause pituitary tumors, but pituitary tumors and surgery to remove pituitary tumors can cause diabetes insipidus.

The part of your brain around your pituitary gland and hypothalamus is extremely delicate. Surgery can damage tissue in these sensitive parts of your brain and lead to temporary or permanent diabetes insipidus.

The chances of developing diabetes insipidus vary widely depending on the type of tumor you have and the surgical technique used to remove it. Symptoms usually start within a few hours of surgery. About 50% of people recover within 7 days, and 80% recover within 90 days.

Temporary diabetes insipidus has been reported in anywhere from 1.6–45.6% of people after pituitary surgery with the transnasal microsurgical approach and 2.5–26% of people with the transnasal endoscopic approach.

Permanent diabetes insipidus has been reported in 0–10% and 0–12.5% of people who undergo these two surgeries, respectively.

Transnasal means the surgery is performed through a hole in the bone at the back of your nasal cavities. Endoscopic and microsurgical approaches are minimally invasive techniques.

Diabetes insipidus has also been reported in up to 90% of people receiving surgery to treat craniopharyngiomas.

Other complications of pituitary surgery

Other complications of pituitary surgery include:

The most common symptoms of diabetes insipidus are:

If the condition is left untreated, it can cause severe dehydration that can lead to coma or death.

Pituitary tumors can also cause other symptoms. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, protentional symptoms of craniopharyngioma include:

Diabetes insipidus can be treated with a synthetic version of antidiuretic hormone called desmopressin. This medication can be taken:

  • as a nasal spray
  • orally
  • through injections

Most pituitary tumors are slow growing and noncancerous. Your life expectancy depends on your size and type of tumor.

People with pituitary adenomas have an excellent outlook if excess hormones aren’t being produced and they’re treated promptly.

About 80–95% of who receive a diagnosis of craniopharyngioma are alive 5 years later.

Diabetes insipidus is a condition that causes persistent thirst and frequent urination. It can develop when pituitary tumors press on your posterior pituitary gland and impair the gland’s ability to secrete the hormone vasopressin.

Diabetes insipidus is also a common complication of pituitary surgery that can be permanent or temporary. It can be treated with a synthetic version of vasopressin called desmopressin.