Bedwetting is common and usually disappears naturally over time. When it becomes a problem, we can help.

What is Bedwetting?

A baby’s bladder fills to a set point, then automatically contracts and empties. As the child gets older, the nervous system matures. The child’s brain begins to get messages from the bladder to stop emptying automatically. It tells the bladder not to empty until the child decides it is time to do so.

Bedwetting, also known as eneuresis or incontinence, is a condition in which a child urinates while sleeping, or has accidents during the day. This loss of urinary control is a normal part of growing up for many young people. But it can be frustrating for children and their parents, so treating it with understanding and patience is important.

About 10% of 5-year-olds, 5% of 10-year-olds, and even 1% of 18-year-olds have episodes of incontinence. It is twice as common in boys as in girls. Although many children can control their bladder in the daytime, nighttime wetting can be more difficult to prevent.

What are the symptoms of Bedwetting?

Urinating while sleeping or having accidents during the day are symptoms of bedwetting.

What causes Bedwetting?

Experts don’t know the causes of bedwetting that interfere with life as a child grows. It is believed that, in most cases, it’s a combination of factors including slower physical development, an overproduction of urine at night, and a lack of ability to recognize bladder filling when asleep. Anxiety is another possible cause but is believed to be more rare. A strong family history of bedwetting exists for many, which suggests it could be inherited.

How is Bedwetting diagnosed?

Consult the pediatric urologists at Michigan Institute of Urology in Southeast Michigan if:

  • Your child wets the bed after age 7
  • Your child starts to wet the bed after months of being dry at night
  • Passing urine is painful for your child, or if your child has excessive thirst, has hard stools (constipation), or snores during sleep time due to enlarged tonsils and adenoids that block the airways leading into throat.

We’ll look for any underlying causes. Your visit with us may include:

  • Physical exam
  • Discussion of your child’s symptoms, amount of fluid he/she drinks each day, family history, bowel and bladder habits, and the problems that result from bedwetting
  • Urine tests to check for signs of an infection or diabetes
  • X-rays or other imaging tests of the kidneys or bladder to look at the structure of the urinary tract
  • Other urinary tract tests or assessments, as needed

How is Bedwetting treated?

Establishing good bladder and bowel habits early in life are key for success. Treatment of constipation, which is often unrecognized, can often lead to quick success. Some urinary incontinence fades away naturally.

Here are examples of what can happen as the child grows and bedwetting is controlled:

  • Bladder capacity increases
  • Natural body alarms become activated
  • An overactive bladder settles down
  • Production of ADH (hormone) becomes normal
  • The child learns to respond to the body’s signal that it is time to urinate and defecate
  • Stressful events, which may contribute to bedwetting, cease to occur

Treatment options include:

  • Moisture alarm. This battery-operated moisture sensitive pad will sound an alarm when it senses wetness. Ideally it will wake your child just as he/she begins to urinate, giving them time to stop urinating until they get to the toilet. Moisture alarms are available without a prescription and are found to be effective for many children. It can take up to three months for results.
  • Constipation is recognized and treated which may stop bedwetting
  • Medications can calm the bladder, reduce contractions, and increase the amount of urine the bladder can hold.
  • Bladder training, which includes exercises for strengthening and coordinating muscles of the bladder and urethra, are techniques that teach the child to anticipate when they need to urinate.
  • Lifestyle changes that work for many children include eliminating caffeine, limiting liquids during the evening, urinating right before bed, and urinating on a schedule like every three hours.
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