Causes of Bedwetting in Children



Causes of Bedwetting

Experts do not know exactly what the causes of bedwetting (or nighttime incontinence) are. Young people who experience nighttime wetting tend to be physically and emotionally normal.

Most cases probably result from a mix of factors including slower physical development, an overproduction of urine at night, a lack of ability to recognize bladder filling when asleep, and, in some cases, anxiety. For many there is a strong family history of bedwetting, suggesting an inherited factor.

Let's take a look at each of these factors individually:

Slower Physical Development

Between the ages of 5 and 10, incontinence may be the result of a small bladder capacity, long sleeping periods, and underdevelopment of the body's alarms that signal a full or emptying bladder. This form of incontinence will fade away as the bladder grows and the natural alarms become operational.

Excessive Output of Urine During Sleep

Normally, the body produces a hormone that can slow the making of urine. This hormone is called antidiuretic hormone, or ADH. The body normally produces more ADH at night so that the need to urinate is lower. If the body doesn't produce enought ADH at night, the making of urine may not be slowed down, leading to bladder overfilling. If a child does not sense the bladder filling and awaken to urinate, then wetting will occur.

Anxiety

Experts suggest that anxiety-causing events occurring in the lives of children ages 2 to 4 might lead to incontinence before the child achieves total bladder control. Anxiety experienced after age 4 might lead to wetting after the child has been dry for a period of 6 months or more. Such events include angry parents, unfamiliar social situations, and overwhelming family events such as the birth of a brother of sister.

Incontinence itself is an anxiety-causing event. Strong bladder contractions leading to leakage in the daytime can cause embarrassment and anxiety that lead to wetting at night.

Genetics

Certain inherited genes appear to contribute to the causes of bedwetting. In 1995, Danish researchers announced they had found a site on human chromosome 13 that is responsible, at least in part, for night time wetting. If both parents were bedwetters, a child has an 80 percent chance of being a bedwetter also. Experts believe that other, undetermined genes also may be involved in incontinence.

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Source and Recommended Reading:

Swanson, Jennifer. Sleep Disorders Sourcebook. Detroit, Michigan: Omnigraphics, Inc., 1999: 106-107.