IN THIS ARTICLE
While bedwetting can be a symptom of an underlying disease, the large majority of children who wet the bed have no underlying disease. In fact, a true organic cause is identified in only a small percentage of children who wet the bed. However, this does not mean that the child who wets the bed can control it or is doing it on purpose. Children who wet the bed are not lazy, willful, or disobedient.
There are two types of bedwetting: primary and secondary. Primary bedwetting refers to bedwetting that has been ongoing since early childhood without a break. A child with primary bedwetting has never been dry at night for any significant length of time. Secondary bedwetting is bedwetting that starts again after the child has been dry at night for a significant period of time (at least six months).
In general, primary bedwetting probably indicates immaturity of the nervous system. A bedwetting child does not recognize the sensation of the full bladder during sleep and thus does not awaken during sleep to urinate into the toilet.
The cause is likely due to one or a combination of the following:
Secondary bedwetting can be a sign of an underlying medical or emotional problem. The child with secondary bedwetting is much more likely to have other symptoms, such as daytime wetting. Common causes of secondary bedwetting include the following:
Bedwetting tends to run in families. Many children who wet the bed have a parent who did, too. Most of these children stop bedwetting on their own at about the same age the parent did.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/28/2014
John Mersch, MD, FAAP
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