What Is Enuresis? - Definition, Causes & Treatment

Instructor: Marisela Duque

Marisela teaches nursing courses at the college level. She also works as a unit educator, teaching experienced nurses about changes in nursing practice.

After completing this lesson, you will be able to define enuresis and describe its causes and treatment options. A short quiz follows this lesson so that you can test your new knowledge.

Jack's Story

Jack is your typical 9-year-old boy who loves video games and sleeping. He loves to sleep so much that on weekends, he can sleep 13-14 hours straight. He is also a deep sleeper - his parents joke that he can sleep through anything, including a band practice session in his room. Unfortunately, he sleeps so deeply that he sometimes does not sense the urge to pee and wets the bed. In Jack's case, although extremely embarrassing, this is a normal part of development called enuresis.

Defining Enuresis

Enuresis (en-yuh-ree-sis) is the medical term for the inability to control urine in persons who are already toilet trained. Most children and teens who experience this usually outgrow it on their own or with bladder training. Such accidents commonly occur at night while sleeping, but bed-wetting may happen during the daytime as well. Boys are twice as likely as girls to experience enuresis. It also appears commonly in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


As mentioned above, enuresis is common and usually disappears on its own. In other instances, enuresis may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Some conditions that cause enuresis include:

  • Small bladder: In some cases, the child's bladder is too small to hold urine all night.
  • Inability to recognize a full bladder: Problems with the nerves that control the bladder may not alert the child when they have to go.
  • Hormone problems: Some kids don't produce enough antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which is responsible for slowing down urine production during sleep.
  • Stress: Any stressful event, such as hospitalization or starting a new school, can trigger enuresis.
  • Infection: Urinary tract infections make controlling urine harder for kids. Other symptoms include pink or red urine as well as painful and frequent urination.
  • Diabetes: Enuresis may be a sign of diabetes. Other symptoms include excessive thirst, fatigue, frequent urination and weight loss.
  • Chronic constipation: Since the same muscles control urine and stool elimination, chronic constipation can also cause enuresis.
  • Structural problem: Problems with the anatomy of the urinary tract or nervous system are rare, but they may contribute to bed-wetting.

Treatment Options

There are treatment options available if accidents persist or if the enuresis is causing emotional distress. Emotional distress can occur when children fear wetting the bed, refuse to attend sleepovers or experience bullying from peers. Firstly, there are a number of home remedies that can help. People might limit fluids before bed and avoid caffeinated beverages, and parents can encourage urination throughout the day and right before bed.

If home remedies are not effective, there are more aggressive treatments that can help. These include bladder monitors and medication.

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