Bedwetting (Nocturnal Enuresis)

  • Medical Author:
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Bedwetting Treatment

The treatment of urinary incontinence depends upon the underlying cause of the problem. The primary treatment for nocturnal enuresis most commonly involves behavioral modification. This involves positive reinforcement, encouraging frequent daytime voiding, and periodically waking the child at night, restricting fluid intake prior to bed, and alarm therapy with devices that wake the child when the underwear or bedclothes have become wet.

Bedwetting facts

  • Bedwetting is also medically termed nocturnal enuresis.
  • There are two types of bedwetting: primary and secondary.
  • Primary bedwetting is bedwetting since infancy.
  • Primary bedwetting is due to a delay in the maturing of the nervous system.
  • Primary bedwetting is an inability to recognize messages sent by the bladder to the sleeping brain.
  • The "cure" for primary bedwetting is "tincture (or passage) of time."
  • There are a number of interventions, including medical and behavioral options.
  • Secondary bedwetting is wetting after being dry for at least six months.
  • Secondary bedwetting is due to urine infections, diabetes, and other medical conditions.
  • All bedwetting is manageable.
  • Always speak to a child's physician for guidance.

What is bedwetting?

Bedwetting is the involuntary passage of urine (urinary incontinence) while asleep. Inherent in the definition of bedwetting is satisfactory bladder control while the person is awake. Therefore, urination while awake is a different condition and has a variety of different causes than bedwetting.

Bedwetting is medically termed nocturnal enuresis.

What are the types of bedwetting?

There are two types of bedwetting:

  1. Primary enuresis: bedwetting since infancy
  2. Secondary enuresis: wetting developed after being continually dry for a minimum of six months

What is primary bedwetting?

Primary bedwetting is viewed as a delay in maturation of the nervous system. At 5 years of age, approximately 16% of children wet the bed at least once a month. Males are twice as likely as females to wet the bed. By 6 years of age, only about 10% of children are bedwetters -- the large majority being boys. The percentage of all children who are bedwetters continues to diminish by 50% each year after 5 years of age. The primary risk factor for developing primary bedwetting is having a parent who also had bedwetting.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/21/2015

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