Enuresis (urinary incontinence) Symptoms & Causes

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  • 617-355-7796

What is enuresis?

Enuresis is a medical name for accidental urination in children, what most people call “wetting.” 

Facts about enuresis:

  • It affects 10 to 20 percent of boys ages 6 to 7.
  • It affects 8 to 17 percent of girls ages 6 to 7.
  • Of the children with enuresis, 74 percent of them have wetting at night, 10 percent have wetting during the day and 16 percent have both.
  • About 15 percent of all 5-year-olds have nighttime bedwetting.
  • About 7 percent of 8-year-olds have nighttime bedwetting.

What causes enuresis?

A number of factors may cause enuresis, including:

  • small functional bladder capacity
  • difficulty with sleep arousal or the presence of a sleep disorder
  • a problem with the proper functioning of hormones that help to regulate urine volume
  • genetics (enuresis tends to run in families)
  • delay of your child’s body’s ability to hold urine (this may be a factor up to about age 5)
  • constipation, which is backed-up stool in your child’s intestine that can push against the bladder and cause accidental urination
  • child is too busy to stop and fully empty their bladder or they may not notice the bladder is full  

It’s also possible that other medical conditions may be causing your child’s enuresis:

How is it diagnosed?

Enuresis is usually diagnosed based on a physical exam and a discussion of medical history. Some tests, including urinalysis and x-rays, may be conducted to help rule out other causes for wetting.

How is it treated?

The Voiding Improvement Program (VIP) at Boston Children’s Hospital takes a comprehensive and holistic approach to treating enuresis, including non-invasive methods.

What are the long-term effects?

Enuresis goes away on its own in 15 percent of kids each year. So, the older your child gets — even if you elect to have no treatment at all — the more likely he is to stay dry.

However, children who have wetting problems because of an underlying medical issue may require longer treatment and care.

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