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Urinary Incontinence

Find out what causes incontinence and bed-wetting, and what can be done for it.

By
Rob Lamberts, MD,
April 20, 2010
Episode #043

Page 1 of 3

I have noticed that people are much more at ease in talking about their urine than they are their poop. I am not really sure why this is the case--perhaps it’s the smell--but asking someone if they have problems when they pee just doesn’t evoke the same expression from people as does talking about their poop. There is one exception to this, and that is when urine comes out when it shouldn’t. That is a condition known as urinary incontinence. There are three types of incontinence I will discuss in this article: bed-wetting, which happens mostly in children, and two kinds of incontinence that happen in adults, stress and urge incontinence.

Bed-Wetting

The fancy doctor word for bed-wetting is enuresis. Bed-wetting is a very common condition, affecting 15% of children age 5, still 10% of 7-year olds, and even 1-2% of children over 15. It’s not only common, it’s genetic. If both parents had a problem with bed-wetting, 1/2-3/4 of the offspring will have the same. So go ahead kids, lay this problem at your parents’ feet.

What Causes Bed-Wetting?

But it’s not fair for the parents to blame their kids for wetting the bed. Many parents seem to think that the child is simply too lazy to get out of bed and so chooses to sleep in a urine-soaked bed. They punish their children or shame them in an attempt to end this problem. That is a big mistake. The main problem with children who wet their beds is not laziness; it’s that they sleep so deeply that they don’t wake up when their bladder tells them they need to go. For some reason, the brain needs simply to get older for it to get aroused by a full bladder.

What Is the Cure for Bed-Wetting?

That means that the cure for bed-wetting is time. There are no magic medications that fix it, and shame doesn’t work either. Having the child wear some sort of absorbent undergarment is the best way to cope with it. The kids may resist this idea at first, but the alternative of sleeping in urine usually convinces them otherwise. There are a few medications that help children if they want to go to a friend’s house and not wear a pull-up, but these only work while they are being given; once they are stopped, the bedwetting resumes.

So don’t worry about bed-wetting. It’s really common and will go away on its own. The only time it needs to be brought to a doctor’s attention is when a child who has previously been dry through the night starts wetting the bed regularly, which may signify a medical problem.

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