Bedwetting is the common term for urinary incontinence. It usually refers to children who cannot control their bladders during the night but can sometimes refer to adults with incontinence issues. In adults, bedwetting is called sleep enuresis. It has many different causes, including urinary tract infections, prostate issues or bladder cancer. In children, bedwetting after the age of 7 seems to be hereditary. It can also be caused by urinary tract infections, diabetes, hormonal imbalances, chronic constipation or stress. Children under the age of 7 who wet the bed are considered normal behavior.
Symptoms for bedwetting are quite straightforward, urine is released when the child or person is asleep. In the deep relaxation of sleep, the sphincter muscles that help hold urine in the bladder are relaxed. The bladder may contract to help push out urine at the same time the sphincter relaxes.
WARNING: If a child suddenly wets the bed after going months or years without doing so, go to a doctor or pediatrician at once. The cause is usually an illness that needs immediate treatment.
Bedwetting is most often associated with small children who are only beginning to understand how to use the bathroom. At that age, people simply don’t have the independence or skills necessary to wake themselves up and/or take themselves to the toilet and will frequently urinate themselves instead. However, bedwetting may also occur in adults as well. Many adults will develop bedwetting behavior for a variety of reasons ranging from psychological disorder to loss of physiological function.
Among adults, one of the most common reasons behind bedwetting is the aging process. As we get older we lose our ability to control our bodily functions and this can cause us to “leak” at night. Conditions such as diabetes and urinary tract infection will cause many to urinate themselves even when trying to exercise great self-control. In addition, anxiety disorders can have an impact on our ability to control our urine flow and many may be prone to urinating while sleeping.
Treating adults for bedwetting requires a doctor’s exam, a urinalysis and a neurological exam. Further testing may require urinating into a special device to monitor urine rate and flow or using an ultrasound or catheter to measure how much urine is left in the bladder immediately after urinating to check for urine retention problems. Treatment is with drugs. Surgery is an option if drugs fail.
Children are also treated with drugs like desmopressin to reduce urine output or drugs like oxybutynin to relax the bladder muscles. Moisture alarms helps wake a child up so he or she can hold the bladder and get up to go to the bathroom. Pads placed on the beds of both children and adult bedwetters help protect mattresses and bed linens from constant soaking.
If the bedwetting is caused by an illness or medical condition like sleep apnea, then the illness needs to be treated before the bedwetting will slow down or stop.
Preventing bedwetting in children is not an easy thing to do, but it is achievable if parents make the right proactive choices. The most important thing to do is to teach children how to go to the bathroom by themselves. Once children learn how to use the bathroom, they will likely get up at night to go by themselves. It is recommended to begin this training before the age of 3.
In adults, the prevention of bedwetting needs to focus on the specific cause. If a patient has diabetes, for instance, you need to focus on controlling the symptoms of the disease before they reach a critical stage. The process of fighting bedwetting in adults will generally take much longer than preventing bedwetting in children. In cases of psychological disorders, it is absolutely important to address the reasons why the individual is feeling the anxieties they do and help prevent them. This could be through therapy, maintaining a healthy response to stress, or medications.