How Sweet It Isn’t

Hello again. Last week when I was writing about Bipolar Disorder and Chronic Kidney Disease, I mentioned nephrogenic diabetes insipidus. During the week I realized how little I know about that.

Let’s start by going back and reviewing what I wrote last week:

“What is nephrogenic diabetes insipidus?
The most common problem from taking lithium is a form of diabetes due to kidney damage called nephrogenic diabetes insipidus. This type of diabetes is different than diabetes mellitus caused by high blood sugar. In nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, the kidneys cannot respond to anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), a chemical messenger that controls fluid balance. This results in greater than normal urine out-put and excessive thirst. It can be hard to treat nephrogenic diabetes insipidus.”

Frankly, that’s not enough information for me, although it’s pretty clear. Former English teacher here. Let’s take a look at the words themselves. Keep in mind, this is what I learned along the years.

Nephro = kidneys

Genic = Beginning in

So we know this disease begins in the kidneys. And diabetes? According to Michigan State University at https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/how_diabetes_got_its_name,

“The ancient Greek word for diabetes means, ‘passing though; a large discharge of urine.’ The meaning is associated with frequent urination, which is a symptom of diabetes.”

And finally insipidus. I found myself turning to Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diabetes_insipidus#:~:text=”Insipidus”%20comes%20from%20Latin%20language,or%20zest%3B%20not%20tasty for help with this.

” ‘Insipidus’ comes from Latin language insipidus (tasteless), from Latin: in- ‘not’ + sapidus ‘tasty’ from sapere ‘have a taste’ — the full meaning is ‘lacking flavor or zest; not tasty’.”

This one I didn’t quite get. Back to the above link to figure out what tasteless has to do with this disease.

“Application of this name to DI arose from the fact that diabetes insipidus does not cause glycosuria (excretion of glucose into the urine).”

Ah, so the urine is not sweet. Reminder: Diabetes can be diagnosed by the doctor tasting the urine. While this was more common in the 1600s, I have read about doctors tasting urine for diabetes more recently and even currently. If the urine is sweet, diabetes is present.

This is interesting. I’d never considered a form of diabetes that didn’t deal with blood glucose, which may also be called blood sugar, so sweet. Of course, I then began to wonder if taking lithium was the only way to develop this disease. The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes-insipidus/symptoms-causes/syc-20351269#:~:text=Nephrogenic%20diabetes%20insipidus%20occurs%20when,or%20a%20chronic%20kidney%20disorder was quite a bit of help here:

“Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus occurs when there’s a defect in the kidney tubules — the structures in your kidneys that cause water to be excreted or reabsorbed. This defect makes your kidneys unable to properly respond to ADH.

The defect may be due to an inherited (genetic) disorder or a chronic kidney disorder. Certain drugs, such as lithium or antiviral medications such as foscarnet (Foscavir), also can cause nephrogenic diabetes insipidus.”

This is a lot of new information to understand unless we get more help. Let’s take a look at kidney tubules now. I turned to my old favorite Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/human-body-maps/kidney#nephrons and found the following:

“Each tubule has several parts:

  • Proximal convoluted tubule. This section absorbs water, sodium, and glucose back into the blood.
  • Loop of Henle. This section further absorbs potassium, chloride, and sodium into the blood.
  • Distal convoluted tubule. This section absorbs more sodium into the blood and takes in potassium and acid.

By the time fluid reaches the end of the tubule, it’s diluted and filled with urea. Urea is byproduct of protein metabolism that’s released in urine.”

That makes sense, but what about this ADH? What is that?  My Health Alberta Ca at https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=hw211268 tells us:

“Antidiuretic hormone (ADH) is a chemical produced in the brain that causes the kidneys to release less water, decreasing the amount of urine produced. A high ADH level causes the body to produce less urine. A low level results in greater urine production.

Normally, the amount of ADH in the body is higher during the night. This helps prevent urination while you are sleeping. But if the levels of ADH remain low during the night, the body will produce large amounts of urine, so urination during the night is more likely.”

We know how you can develop nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, but how do you treat it once you’ve been diagnosed? WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/nephrogenic-diabetes-insipidus-symptoms-causes-and-treatments offers us the following:

“If a drug like lithium is responsible, switching medicines might improve nephrogenic diabetes insipidus.

Most adults with nephrogenic diabetes insipidus are able to keep up with fluid losses by drinking water. For some people, though, the symptoms of near-constant thirst and urination can become intolerable. Some treatments can reduce the symptoms of nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, at least somewhat:

All adults and children with nephrogenic diabetes insipidus should take frequent bathroom breaks. This helps to avoid over-distending the bladder, which can cause long-term problems, though rarely.

The most important treatment for nephrogenic diabetes insipidus is to ensure constant access to lots of water. Not keeping up with fluid losses can lead to dehydration or electrolyte imbalances, which can sometimes be severe. Seek medical help if symptoms don’t improve after rehydrating, eating fresh fruit, and taking a multivitamin.”

Now, the biggie…. Is this rare disease curable? Unfortunately it isn’t, although,

“For individuals with acquired NDI treating the underlying cause (e.g., correcting metabolic imbalances or discontinuing drug use) can reverse the kidneys resistance to vasopressin. [Gail here again: Vasopressin is another name for ADH as far as I can tell.] However, this reversal may take weeks. In some cases caused by the use of drugs such as lithium, it may take years for the kidneys to respond to vasopressin again or it can become irreversible.”

Thank you to National Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD) at https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/nephrogenic-diabetes-insipidus/ for the above information.

I feel like I’ve been down the rabbit hole with Alice with all this new information about a rare disease that your already existing kidney disease may cause. Hopefully, you won’t be one of its victims.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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