Bedwetting (nocturnal enuresis) is a common
problem that affects boys more frequently than girls, and a family history of
the problem is frequent. Primary bedwetting occurs when a child has never been
consistently dry at night; most cases are presumably due to immaturity in the
development of normal bladder control. Approximately 15% of 5-year-olds will
still have primary bedwetting, and about 15% of those cases spontaneously
resolve each year thereafter.
Secondary bedwetting occurs when a child who has been dry for at least six
months begins wetting the bed again. This can often be a sign of an underlying
medical condition, and your child should be seen by his or her physician to
look for problems.
How is it treated?
Treating primary bedwetting can be a frustrating task for the patient and the
parents. This is not an intentional behavior; punishment never helps this
improve. Giving the child responsibility for changing wet sheets and small
rewards for dry nights may motivate the child to help solve the problem. Other
helpful hints include:
- Limit fluid intake
after dinner, and make sure your child urinates before bed. Sometimes, waking
the child for a bathroom break before you go to sleep may help.
- Stream interruption
exercises: Have your child stop urine flow during urination, count to 10, and
then finish urinating. Improved bladder sphincter control may help while
- Bladder strengthening
exercises: Have your child hold back the urge to urinate for slowly increasing
periods of time. Increasing bladder capacity without pain may also help while
- If problems persist,
visit your pediatrician to discuss other interventions. Bedwetting alarms, when
used consistently, are a good way to teach a child how to awaken when the need
to urinate arises. Medications can give temporary improvement in symptoms and
can help a child avoid embarrassing times when spending the night with friends
or while away at camp.
page was authored by Dr. Robert Higginbotham.