Urinary Incontinence (Enuresis)

What is urinary incontinence (enuresis)?

Urinary incontinence (enuresis) is the medical term for bedwetting. Incontinence is accidental or intentional urination in children who are at an age where they should be able to have control of their bladders. Girls usually obtain bladder control before boys. Incontinence may be diagnosed in girls older than age 5 and in boys who are older than age 6 who are still having urinary control problems. There are different types of bedwetting that may occur, including the following:

  • Diurnal enuresis. Wetting during the day.
  • Nocturnal enuresis. Wetting during the night.
  • Primary enuresis. This occurs when the child has never fully mastered toilet training.
  • Secondary enuresis. This occurs when the child did have a period of dryness, but then returned to having periods of incontinence.
Prevention & Risk Treatment

Prevention & Risk Treatment

What are some key facts about urinary incontinence?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics: 

  • Bedwetting affects 20 percent of 5-year-olds, 10 percent of 6-year-olds, and 3 percent of 12-year-olds.
  • Nocturnal enuresis occurs two times more frequently in boys than in girls.
  • Of the children with enuresis, most have wetting at night. 
  • Primary enuresis is the most common form of urinary incontinence among children.

What causes urinary incontinence?

There are many factors that may be involved, and many theories that are given for why children wet. The following is a list of some of the possible reasons for the problem:

  • Poor toilet training
  • Delay of the ability to hold urine. (This may be a factor up to about the age of five.)
  • Small bladders
  • Poor sleep habits or the presence of a sleep disorder
  • A problem with the proper functioning of hormones that help to regulate urination
  • Most children who wet the bed have at least one parent or a close relative who also suffered from bedwetting as a child 
  • Medication that affects sleep


How is urinary incontinence diagnosed?

Urinary incontinence (enuresis) is usually diagnosed based on a complete medical history and physical examination of your child. In addition to talking with you and the child, your child's doctor may perform the following to help rule out other causes for the wetting:

  • Urine tests (to make sure there is not an underlying infection, or condition, such as diabetes)
  • Blood pressure measurement
  • Blood tests
Children's Team

Children's Team




Wetting, Infections, and Stooling Help (WISH)

We are dedicated to helping children overcome challenges with wetting problems and urinary tract infections in our WISH Clinic (Wetting, Infections, and Stooling Help).


At Children’s National in Washington, DC, our pediatric urologists provide comprehensive care for disorders affecting reproductive and urinary organs.

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Gunnar's Story

"The urology and nephrology staff at Children's National has been so very helpful in our son's treatment and has been amazing toward him."

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