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Enuresis (bedwetting)

What is enuresis?

Enuresis is a condition in children over the age of 4 who continue to wet the bed. The problem may have always been present, or may start up some time after a child is completely potty trained at night.

How common is enuresis?

Enuresis occurs in as many as 15-20% of children at 4 years of age, 5-10% at 10 years and 1-2% at 15 years of age.

When does my child need to see a doctor?

Your child should see a doctor if he/she is 5 years old and still bedwetting. The doctor will take a medical and voiding history, do urine tests and a physical examination. If these tests are all normal, it is unlikely that any further testing will be done.

Does my child need to be treated for this problem?

If the problem is simple bedwetting alone, it is highly likely that the wetting will subside during the childhood years. Enuresis is a very common and almost always a temporary problem. Furthermore, it is not the child¹s fault that he/she wets the bed; it is not because of laziness or the need for attention. Therefore, a positive approach is the best way to handle this problem.

What causes enuresis?

A child with bedwetting may:

  • Make more urine at night than the bladder can hold
  • Have a family history (parents and/or siblings who wet the bed)
  • Be exposed to stress recently such as a move, new school, new sibling, separation, divorce or death
  • Have a small bladder (and may also wet during the day)

What treatments are available for enuresis?

If your child wets only at night, has never had a urinary tract infection and urinates normally during the day, a physical cause of the wetting is very unlikely. Therefore, he/she may choose no treatment, or may try an enuresis alarm or medication.

Some families are relieved to know that their child has no medical problems as a cause of bedwetting, and choose to wait until they grow out of the problem. If there is a family history of the problem, many children will quit wetting at the same age as the other family member did. If the wetting seems to be causing significant distress to the child, some form of treatment may be tried. These include discouraging any drinking of fluids for 2 hours prior to bed, avoiding caffeine and making sure your child urinates just before bedtime.

If your child is 7 years old, you may want to try a moisture (enuresis) alarm to wake the child up at the time that wetting begins. The child must then go to the toilet, empty the bladder completely (if not already empty), reset the alarm and go back to bed. The alarm may work best in children who learn to wake themselves up when the alarm goes off. Eventually (after at least 3 months of use) they may be able to wake up before they start to wet the bed.

Medications to treat enuresis are effective in only about half of the children who take them and are not cures. Once they are stopped, the enuresis quickly returns unless the child has outgrown it. Your child’s urologist will discuss various medicine options to help with your child.