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What is the Antidiuretic Hormone (ADH)?

Why is ADH Important?


To put it in the most basic terms, the Antidiuretic hormone (ADH) helps your kidneys manage appropriate amounts of water in your body. This hormone is important for people with incontinence to know about, because it directly affects the way your body produces urine. With or without incontinence, everyone should know about ADH because we all have it! The varying levels of the Antidiuretic hormone may explain certain aspects of your life, or possible health complications.


ADH is also known by another name, arginine vasopressin. Antidiuretic hormone, ADH, arginine vasopressin – they’re all the same hormone, with a very important job. The hypothalamus in the brain produces ADH, and stores it in the posterior pituitary gland. This is where ADH can perform it’s duties, by telling the kidneys how much water needs to be retained or flushed. To keep a healthy amount of water in your body, ADH creates a permeable area in the kidneys so water can flow back into the bloodstream.


High levels of Antidiuretic Hormone make the kidneys retain more water in your body. When you produce more ADH, you go to the bathroom less. Thirst, nausea, vomiting, pain, and sleep heighten ADH levels, in an effort to retain more water. This is one of the reasons why the average healthy person does experience bedwetting at night.


Low Antidiuretic Hormone levels allow the kidney to produce and flush out more urine. This rids the body of toxins, bacteria, sodium, etc, creating a healthy blood flow. When you drink too much alcohol your ADH levels lower, and you have to go to the bathroom more. Have you ever had a friend experience urinary incontinence (loss of bladder control) after passing out on a Friday night? Blame low ADH levels.


When ADH levels are Way Too High


The syndrome of abnormally high levels of ADH is called Ectopic ADH or Syndrome of Inappropriate Antidiuretic Hormone Secretion (SIADH). When too much ADH is released, it becomes very difficult to urinate. With to much water in your body, many substances in your blood become diluted. Low blood sodium level (hyponatremia) characteristically results from this.


Hyponatremia has no symptoms. But other symptoms of SIADH like changes in mental status, including confusion, decreased memory, and strange behavior can occur. In rare cases, a low blood sodium level can cause seizures.


Excessive levels of ADH might be caused by drug side-effects and diseases of the lungs, chest wall, hypothalamus or pituitary. Some tumors (particularly lung, head or neck cancers), can produce anti-diuretic hormone.


Treatments include surgery to remove a tumor producing ADH, limiting fluid intake (to prevent excess fluid from building up), and or medicines that block the effects of ADH on the kidneys (so more water is flushed out.


Epctopic ADH is very rare.


When ADH levels are Way Too Low


Low levels of Antidiuretic Hormone is a condition called diabetes insipidus. With severely low levels of ADH, your kidneys flush out way too much water and urine production increases. The permeable area that allows water to enter the blood stream, almost closes up. It’s like your kidneys are barricaded, and the only opening for your water to escape is through the urethra and out of your body.


Low levels of ADH can cause symptoms of:


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  • Frequent Urination
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  • An irritated bladder
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  • the urge to urinate even when bladder is void of urine
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  • Bedwetting (Low ADH production is among the most common causes for adult bedwetting.)
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  • Dehydration
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  • Increased thirst
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Because low Antidiuretic Hormone levels cause you to urinate more, you become dehydrated. Once you are dehydrated, you drink more fluids, which leads to more urine production and more trips to the bathroom. But if you don’t drink enough water, your urine will become concentrated and irritate your bladder, increasing the symptoms of a full bladder and bladder spasms. It’s a Catch 22.


There are two types of diabetes insipidus, separated by their causes. Central diabetes insipidus (insufficient production or secretion of ADH) can be a result of damage to the pituitary gland caused by head injuries, genetic disorders, tumors, surgery, and other diseases. Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus (lack of kidney response to normal levels of ADH) can be caused by drugs or chronic disorders, such as kidney failure, sickle cell disease, or polycystic kidney disease.


Diabetes insipidus also be caused by the psychological disorder of compulsive/excessive water drinking (primary polydipsia).


Treatment may include modified antidiuretic hormone drugs administered either as injections, pills, or intranasal spray. Depending on your age, health condition, drug tolerance and or preference, treatment may differ.


So that’s a simple explanation of the Antidiuretic Hormone explained in roughly 800 words. If you relate to the severe symptoms, seek a doctor. And if you wet the bed after binge drinking in Vegas, seek a gallon of water. Your hangover will decrease with hydration!

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