Concentrations of the antidiuretic hormone, arginine vasopressin, were measured in 28 patients with severe hyperglycemia to determine if abnormalities in hormonal regulation of water excretion could contribute to the extreme dehydration of uncontrolled diabetes mellitus. Vasopressin levels were markedly elevated in both nonketotic and ketotic patients, indicating that vasopressin deficiency plays no role in the polyuria that accompanies hyperglycemia. Instead, the observed increases in vasopressin represent an ineffective effort to conserve water in the face of an overwhelming solute diuresis caused by the glucosuria.
The reasons for such marked elevations in plasma vasopressin in these diabetic patients are multifactorial. Both groups of diabetic patients had evidence of hypovolemia, which was sufficient in magnitude to stimulate vasopressin release. Furthermore, nausea provided an independent stimulus to vasopressin secretion in many patients. Osmotic stimulation might have resulted from the large fraction of unidentified plasma solutes, but this factor alone was not sufficient to explain the markedly increased concentrations of vasopressin. Whether such elevations in vasopressin could have metabolic and/or hemodynamic effects in uncontrolled diabetes remains to be established.