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 asleep.
- 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 asleep.
- 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.
This page was authored by Dr. Robert Higginbotham.