What Causes Enuresis in Children?

Jennifer Long

Enuresis, otherwise known as urinary incontinence and bedwetting, can be caused by many factors. Small bladders, a sleep disorder, and problems with muscle control are just a few causes. Developmental delays, stress or psychological issues, and chronic urinary tract infection are also additional possibilities.

A child sleeping.
A child sleeping.

The four classifications of enuresis in children are nocturnal, diurnal, primary, and secondary. Each type of enuresis is defined by when and how the abnormal urination occurs. Diagnosing enuresis helps classify symptoms and occurrences as well as aiding in the creation of a treatment plan.

Diurnal and nocturnal are two of the most common types of enuresis in children. Wetting that occurs during the day is diurnal. Nocturnal enuresis occurs during the night. Both of these are common, but night wetting occurs more than day wetting.

Primary enuresis in children is diagnosed when a child suffers from incontinence as a result of development. This type of enuresis does not always result from an underdeveloped or overactive bladder. It generally occurs because potty training was not mastered completely.

Secondary enuresis is another type of enuresis in children. A period of dryness followed by wetting leads to this diagnosis. The child must have no incidences of wetting for at least six months prior to the start of wetting.

Non-organic enuresis is the term used to describe when enuresis in children is not caused by underlying conditions. Organic enuresis is the term used when the wetting is caused by conditions such as a urinary tract infection or an abnormal urinary tract. Regardless of which group of enuresis is diagnosed, it will be one from one of these two general causes.

Genetics may also play a role in the occurrence of enuresis in children. Family histories suggest that one parent could have had a problem with enuresis. There has also been evidence to show that children have a higher chance of developing enuresis if both parents suffered from the problem.

There are several options for treatment. Doctors must first determine if there are underlying conditions that are responsible. If there is a problem causing the enuresis, treating the problem will stop the wetting. In some instances, surgery may be necessary. When no underlying condition is found, treatments include medication and behavior modification.

Behavior modification can be a successful way to treat enuresis in children, regardless of the cause. This type of treatment often involves reducing fluid intake in conjunction with rewards and bladder training. Retraining the bladder is accomplished through scheduled bathroom breaks, gradually increasing the time between each one. The child learns how to prolong urination while the bladder stretches in small increments.

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