Davina Richardson RGN/RSCN BSc (Hons)
Specialist Nurse, Bladder & Bowel UK
Bedwetting is a common medical condition, affecting as many as one fifth of five year olds and one tenth of seven year olds. It can have a significant impact on those living with the condition.
Numbers of people affected by bedwetting reduces with increasing years, but it persists in about 2% of teenagers and young adults. Many mistakenly believe that children and young people will grow out of it and that, although inconvenient, it is harmless.
Impact on quality of life
Despite beliefs to the contrary, bedwetting causes distress and anxiety to children and young people and stress to their families. Embarrassment, reduced self-esteem, a negative impact on relationships with friends and family, social isolation and reduced quality of life are frequently experienced.
Bedwetting may affect sleep quality, resulting in daytime tiredness, reduced school performance and poorer behaviour. There are also financial consequences associated with the need for additional bedding and washing or purchase of disposable pants or nappies.
Some children are more prone to the condition, including those with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or learning disabilities.
Factors causing bedwetting
The condition occurs when the kidneys are unable to reduce overnight urine production in the usual way, and/or the bladder cannot hold the urine that is produced. When the brain is unable to wake the child or young person in response to bladder signals, urination will happen during sleep.
Other factors, such as constipation, poor daytime fluid intake, the wrong types of fluid intake (caffeine and fizzy drinks can irritate the bladder lining making the wetting worse) may cause or exacerbate bedwetting.
Additionally, some children are more prone to the condition, including those with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or learning disabilities. For these children and young people assumptions may be made that wetting is inevitable due to the additional needs.
Finding available support
Families looking for help will often turn to the internet but may not find all the information available is valid and based on current research and treatment recommendations.
As well as being used to discussing sensitive issues, healthcare professionals understand that successful treatment can be life changing. They can provide reassurance that the condition is not the result of laziness, naughtiness or anything the child or family have or have not done.
In many areas there are clinics run by specialist nurses, that offer individualised assessment and can recommend treatment options, including combinations of treatments that often result in improvement or dry nights. Therefore, if you have a child who is five years old or more and experiences bedwetting talk to their healthcare professional and ask for advice and support.