Disorders of body water homeostasis

Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003 Dec;17(4):471-503. doi: 10.1016/s1521-690x(03)00049-6.


Disorders of body fluids are among the most commonly encountered problems in the practice of clinical medicine. This is in large part because many different disease states can potentially disrupt the finely balanced mechanisms that control the intake and output of water and solute. It therefore behoves clinicians treating such patients to have a good understanding of the pathophysiology, the differential diagnosis and the management of these disorders. Because body water is the primary determinant of the osmolality of the extracellular fluid, disorders of body water homeostasis can be divided into hypo-osmolar disorders, in which there is an excess of body water relative to body solute, and hyperosmolar disorders, in which there is a deficiency of body water relative to body solute. The classical hyperosmolar disorder is diabetes insipidus (DI), and the classical hypo-osmolar disorder is the syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion (SIADH). This chapter first reviews the regulatory mechanisms underlying water and sodium metabolism, the two major determinants of body fluid homeostasis. The major disorders of water metabolism causing hyperosmolality and hypo-osmolality, DI and SIADH, are then discussed in detail, including the pathogenesis, differential diagnosis and treatment of these disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arginine Vasopressin / metabolism
  • Body Water / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Insipidus / diagnosis
  • Diabetes Insipidus / etiology
  • Diabetes Insipidus / metabolism
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Hypernatremia / diagnosis
  • Hypernatremia / etiology
  • Hypernatremia / metabolism
  • Inappropriate ADH Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Inappropriate ADH Syndrome / etiology
  • Inappropriate ADH Syndrome / metabolism
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Sodium / metabolism*
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary / metabolism
  • Thirst
  • Water-Electrolyte Imbalance / complications*
  • Water-Electrolyte Imbalance / therapy


  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary
  • Arginine Vasopressin
  • Sodium