Antidiuretic Hormone and PCOS

Antidiuretic hormone, or ADH, is a hormone that is produced in the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland. Its primary jobs are to help the kidneys maintain your body's fluid levels and to control blood pressure. This involves the regulation of blood volume and blood concentration.

Woman running to toilet in night clothes
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Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) are at risk for high blood pressure.

Also known as vasopressin, ADH promotes smooth muscle contraction of the blood vessels and causes the body to retain water, helping to prevent dehydration.

ADH secretion is activated when specialized cells in the brain or heart detect a change in the concentration of the blood or blood pressure.

Once released, ADH travels to the kidneys where it signals specific cells to reabsorb water from the kidneys, preventing water from being lost through urination. This increases both the blood volume and blood pressure.

Altered ADH Levels

Some medical conditions or medications may alter your ADH level, which can cause health issues.

High ADH levels, which may cause fluid retention, can occur as a side-effect of certain medications or can be caused by a disease or tumor in the lungs, hypothalamus, or pituitary gland.

A condition known as syndrome of inappropriate anti-diuretic hormone secretion (SIADH) produces excess ADH to be released when it isn’t needed.

Drinking alcohol inhibits the release of ADH, resulting in an increase in urine production and dehydration.

Symptoms of low sodium levels in the blood, which can be caused by an imbalance of ADH, include nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, confusion, and convulsions.

Testing for ADH

Your doctor may order an ADH test for you if you are experiencing excessive thirst, frequent urination or dehydration, or have abnormal blood sodium levels. The test may also be called AVP or arginine vasopressin.

Getting an accurate measurement of ADH, however, can be tricky, because it is a very small molecule with a short half-life. Healthcare professionals sometimes use copeptin as a surrogate for ADH. Copeptin has been linked to atherosclerosis and heart disease and may be used to identify heart attacks in the early stages.

ADH and Heart Disease

A study published in the Journal of Ovarian Research found higher levels of copeptin in women with PCOS compared to women without the condition. They found an association between higher copeptin levels and levels of fasting insulin, testosterone, and atherosclerosis. This may indicate that copeptin plays a role in the development of atherosclerosis in this population, but more studies are needed to prove this.

Another study found, in women with PCOS, copeptin levels are higher in obese patients than in those of normal weight.

A Word From Verywell

There are several medical conditions associated with PCOS, such as hypertension, depression, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, and more. Researchers are looking for answers in terms of why these associated conditions develop and how to treat them. It is possible that ADH plays a role in hypertension and PCOS, and more research may help clarify the relationship.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bentley-lewis R, Seely E, Dunaif A. Ovarian hypertension: polycystic ovary syndrome. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am. 2011;40(2):433-49, ix-x. doi:10.1016/j.ecl.2011.01.009

  2. Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. Syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone.

  3. Karbek B, Ozbek M, Karakose M, et al. Copeptin, a surrogate marker for arginine vasopressin, is associated with cardiovascular risk in patients with polycystic ovary yyndromeJ Ovarian Res. 2014 Mar 14; 7:31. doi:10.1186/1757-2215-7-31

  4. Taskin MI, Bulbul E, Adali E, Hismiogullari AA, Inceboz U. Circulating levels of obestatin and copeptin in obese and nonobese women with polycystic ovary syndromeEur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2015 Jun;189:19-23. doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2015.03.006

By Nicole Galan, RN
Nicole Galan, RN, is a registered nurse and the author of "The Everything Fertility Book."