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Is It Bedwetting or Something More Serious?

Posted 4/13/2017 by UHBlog

Is an underlying problem causing your child’s bedwetting? Ask us.

Is It Bedwetting or Something More Serious?

If your child wets the bed, he or she is not alone. In fact, it’s so common that at age five, 15 percent of kids still wet the bed – and it’s completely normal, says pediatric urologist Lynn Woo, MD.

By age 10 and older, about 5 percent of children wet the bed. Even 1 to 2 percent of adults have bedwetting accidents.

“15 percent of people who wet the bed will improve each year,” Dr. Woo says. “Whenever we talk about treatment, we have to balance that with the fact that a lot of people improve on their own.”

There are many factors that may contribute to bedwetting, but there is still not a clear understanding of why bedwetting occurs. Bedwetting causes include:

  • Sleep patterns, such as being hard to wake up
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Small bladder capacity
  • Making more urine at night
  • Emotional and psychosocial stressors
  • Family history of bedwetting

Although bedwetting is a common problem among children, it’s important to know when the behavior is cause for concern. According to Dr. Woo, bedwetting could be a problem for your child if:

  1. It’s a new onset. “Bedwetting can be categorized as primary, meaning your child has never had a prolonged period of being dry overnight, or secondary, meaning your child was dry for six months or more but then started wetting again,” she says. “If your child had control all night but started wetting again, this may be cause for concern.”
  2. The child is experiencing daytime urinary problems. “Daytime urinary problems in combination with bedwetting can point to more serious underlying bladder issues,” Dr. Woo says.
  3. The child seems distressed. As children get older, they may develop self-esteem issues about bedwetting. “Parents should keep in mind that it’s not an uncommon thing,” says Dr. Woo. “I often tell kids that based on numbers, they probably have another classmate who also wets, so they shouldn’t feel singled out.”

If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a urologist.

“We want to determine if this is something your child will outgrow or if there are additional problems contributing to the bedwetting,” Dr. Woo says.

However, unless the bedwetting is caused by an underlying problem, treatment should be child-driven.

“In considering management options, I stress that it has to be something the child wants to do,” she says. “If the child hasn’t reached a point where they’re bothered by their bedwetting, I don’t think we should force treatment.”

Dr. Woo suggests finding solutions to make your child comfortable such as:

  • Making the child responsible for handling soiled sheets
  • Having a dialogue with friends' parents before sleepovers
  • Sending your child to sleepovers with extra clothes or pull-ups

Treatment options under the guidance of a urologist can include behavioral therapy, such as a bedwetting alarm to recondition your child to wake up, or medications to decrease incidents of bedwetting.

Lynn Woo, MD is a pediatric urologist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. You can request an appointment with Dr. Woo or any doctor online.

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