Bladder problems involve many issues, including infection and loss of control. Teens are most often affected by night enuresis, or bedwetting. Enuresis is the medical term for being unable to control when you pass urine. Although enuresis can happen at any time of the day or night, it is most commonly associated with sleep.
Enuresis is a complicated issue, classified in two ways. Primary nocturnal (night) enuresis, or bedwetting, is more common. It has happened continuously since birth. If someone has had bladder control for at least six months, and then begins to wet, it is called secondary enuresis.
We may think that bedwetting is very rare in teens. However, it actually affects one to three per cent – a large number of people. In some cases, it is associated with ADHD. It also tends to run in families. Although parents may have had the same problem, they might not talk about it.
The condition is distressing for anyone, but especially for a teen. During the teen years independence is growing. Fear of bedwetting can be very traumatic, especially the idea of it happening away from home. Teens can become socially insecure, missing out on chances to travel or leave home.
One or more of the following issues may contribute to enuresis at night.
Diagnosis of primary nocturnal enuresis is not made through any specific blood or urine tests or x-rays. In most cases, there is a history of continuous night wetting, without daytime problems or symptoms involving bowel function. Diagnosis is confirmed if the problem is continuous and no other illness can be found.
The doctor may examine the genitals, ask questions and do tests to gain information about the nervous system. This helps rule out other conditions linked to bladder control problems. A urine test can indicate infection or other problems. In most cases such tests are normal, so diagnosis is made based on what is happening.
Once diagnosis is made, the problem can be treated. First, know that you are not alone. A bedwetting problem does not mean that you are different, weird or immature.
Keep in mind that this is a normal delay in development. It is not a significant long-term issue. On average, after age five, 15 per cent of kids who do not have bladder control will become dry each year.
Many treatments are available for night enuresis. One of the simplest involves cutting down on drinks taken late at night. By limiting liquids after suppertime, particularly those with caffeine, less urine may be produced at night. There is less chance of wetting and less volume if it does happen.
Another treatment option involves a bed alarm. When the mattress alarm becomes wet, it sounds. The idea is that the person learns to wake when the bladder is full. Unfortunately, many teens with this problem are very sound sleepers. As a result the bed alarm often wakes everyone else in the family except the teen.
Medication is another option. Most commonly, medical therapy targets the issue of too much urine being produced at night. If too little anti-diuretic hormone is being produced, medication can be prescribed. The most common trade name drug used for this is DDAVP™. It is available both as a tablet and a nasal spray. It is highly effective for many people, and is usually well tolerated with rare side effects.
Bedwetting is a common bladder problem for teens. Keep in mind that it should not be an isolating condition. By understanding that they are not alone and that treatment exists, teens are taking the first step to correct the problem.