(Enuresis; Primary Nocturnal Enuresis; PNE)
Bed-wetting is involuntary urination during sleep in children. Typically children become able to sleep through the night without wetting around ages 3 to 5 years. Talk to your doctor if your child has bed-wetting after age 5 years. There are two types bed-wetting (also called enuresis):
Bed-wetting is common and not related to a medical condition. Most will stop by the time the child reaches puberty. However, bed-wetting remains a problem for up to 1% of adults.
Some bed-wetting may be caused by infections or abnormalities of the urinary system. Most bed-wetting has no explanation.
Some factors that may contribute to bed-wetting include:
In rare cases, bed-wetting may be a symptom of a health condition. These conditions may cause excess urine or prevent the bladder from completely emptying. They include :
Factors that increase the chance of bed-wetting include:
The child wakes up and finds the bed wet from urine.
When Should I Call My Doctor?
Most children will have bladder control at night by about 5 years of age. Talk to your doctor if your child is about 5 years old and is still wetting the bed. Your doctor can help determine if the bed-wetting is just a normal part of your child's development or is caused by a condition that may need treatment.
Also call your doctor if you child:
The doctor will ask about symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor will ask about:
Your doctor may order tests to look for infections or structural problems:
If an underlying problem in the urinary tract is suspected, your child may be referred to a specialist.
Most treatment aims to gradually reduce the number of bed-wettings until the child grows out of it. Treatment is rarely appropriate before age six. Bed-wetting does not interfere with social development until after age 6 years.
If your child's bed-wetting is caused by an infection or physical abnormality, your doctor will create a treatment plan for that issue.
Motivation and Family Support
Bed-wetting is rarely an intentional act. Children are usually upset and ashamed when it happens. Do not punish the child. It is very important that parents offer encouragement. The bed-wetting will stop with time. Do not let siblings tease the child who wets the bed.
Keep careful records of the child's progress. Offer consistent support. A very simple motivational method is the use of positive feedback, such as a star chart.
Avoid giving the child anything to drink after 6:00-7:00 in the evening. Have your child void before going to bed. Sugar and caffeine should also be avoided after late afternoon.
The doctor may recommend a conditioning device. One example is a pad with buzzer that sounds when wet. The child wears the pad in his underwear. The alarm will wake the child up so he/she can use the toilet. Parents may need to help the child get to the bathroom and reset the alarm.
Dry bed training is another type of therapy. With this training you follow a schedule where you wake your child up during the night so he/she can use the bathroom.
Some doctors suggest bladder-stretching exercises. While awake, the child gradually increases the amount of time between urinations. Do not try this method without talking to the doctor. Holding in urine can lead to urinary tract infections.
Medicine is rarely given. It may be used for short term situations like a sleepover or vacation. Medication that may be considered include:
Excess intake of fluid is rarely the cause of bed-wetting. Restricting fluids prior to bed does not help all the time. Still, it is reasonable to have all children empty their bladders prior to bed. Some parents wake their children every few hours to urinate, but most report that they rarely get much cooperation.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
American Academy of Pediatrics
About Kids Health
Alberta Health and Wellness
Bed wetting (enuresis). American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.healthy... . Updated May 26, 2011. Accessed August 7, 2012.
Enuresis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ . Updated July 19, 2012. Accessed August 7, 2012.
Facts for families: bed wetting. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry website. Available at: http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/bedwetting . Updated December 2011. Accessed August 7, 2012.
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9/23/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamicmedical.com/what.php : Glazener C, Evans J, Peto RE. Complex behavioural and educational interventions for nocturnal enuresis in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2004(1). CD004668. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004668.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Michael Woods