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Urinary Incontinence (Bedwetting)

What is urinary incontinence (enuresis)?

Enuresis is a medical name for bedwetting, or the accidental urination during sleep in children who have reached an age when they would be expected to be developmentally able to have control of their bladders. Girls usually have bladder control before boys do. Enuresis includes the following categories:

  • Diurnal enuresis—wetting during the day and night.
  • Nocturnal enuresis—wetting during the night only.
  • Primary enuresis—occurs when the child has never fully mastered toilet-training.
  • Secondary enuresis—occurs when the child did have a period of dryness, but then returned to having periods of incontinence.

Facts about urinary incontinence (enuresis):

  • Nocturnal enuresis affects 5 million to 7 million children in the U.S.
  • Nocturnal enuresis occurs more frequently in boys than in girls.
  • Primary enuresis is the most common form of urinary incontinence among children.

What causes urinary incontinence?

There are many factors that may be involved, and many theories that are given for why children wet. The following is a list of some of the possible reasons for the problem:

  • Delayed toilet-training
  • Delay of the ability to hold urine (this may be a factor up to about 5 years old)
  • Functionally small or overactive bladders
  • Sleep habits or the presence of a sleep disorder
  • Improper functioning of hormones that help to regulate urine concentration (volume)

How is urinary incontinence (enuresis) diagnosed?

Urinary incontinence (enuresis) is usually diagnosed based on a complete medical history and physical examination of your child. In addition to talking with you and examining the child, your child's physician may perform the following to help rule out other causes for the wetting:

  • Urine tests (to make sure there is not an underlying infection, or condition such as diabetes)
  • Blood pressure measurement

Treatment for urinary incontinence (enuresis):

Specific treatment for enuresis will be determined by your child's physician based on:

  • Your child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the condition
  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the condition
  • Your opinion or preference