Incontinence in Children – What Are The Main Causes?

07 November 2017

If you have stumbled across this page on the internet, it is a reasonable assumption that either your children or a close friend or relative’s child is suffering from some form of incontinence and you are trying to conduct some research on the subject.

Incontinence in children is widespread; indeed, if the child is under the age of five, the advice is not to worry about bedwetting at all. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that many children do not stay dry at night until the age of 7, so hopefully, that sentence alone will help to put your mind at ease.

Should I Take My Child to The Doctor?

Before getting into the more technical aspects ofincontinence in children, let’s answer the question you are probably most interested in. While every child and situation is different, if your child is under the age of five, then the chances are they will grow out of the problem, and there is no need to visit your GP unless it helps to put your mind at rest.

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If your child is 7 or older, and still regularly wets the bed 2 to 3 times every week, then the GP should be consulted and in most situations, should be able to come up with a solution to the problem.

Between the ages of five and seven it all depends on when the incontinence is happening. If incidents are happening during the day and night and the child is over five then again, the best course of action would be to visit the GP.

If you are reading this article late at night and are starting to panic, there is no need, the vast majority of childhood incontinence problems disappear as the child matures, and even in situations where medical assistance is required the prognosis tends to be extremely good.

Is All Child Incontinence Identical?

Incontinence in children is primarily classified into two different types;

Nocturnal Enuresis

Nocturnal enuresis is what is commonly referred to as bedwetting, and as such occurs during the night when the child is asleep and is most commonly associated with children over the age of five.

Diurnal Enuresis

Diurnal Enuresis refers to incontinence when the child is awake during the daytime and is much more prevalent in children under the age of five.

There is also a further subsection with regards to the different classifications. There are certain children who have excellent control of their bladder during the daytime, but have never experienced a dry night. This is commonly called primary enuresis.

The alternative diagnosis which is called secondary enuresis refers to a child who has been perfectly clean for at least six months and then starts to develop incontinence issues. Although not always secondary enuresis tends to be more of a symptom of stress, anxiety or another psychological issue which then manifests itself via incontinence.

The fact that the child has been clean for six months or more would tend to indicate that there is no physical problem or issue.

What Is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary Incontinence is the medical term to describe the complete loss of control of when to urinate, or alternatively the bladder involuntarily emptying itself. The act of controlling when you urinate involves a learning process accompanied by greater physical control between your brain and bladder. That is why for instance young babies have no control over when they urinate, and so incontinence within children is perfectly common and natural.

Around 20 percent of children aged five wet the bed, and even by the age of 7 that percentage still stands at about 10. Bedwetting is generally more common amongst boys, whilst daytime wetting is more frequent with girls.

What Causes Night Time Incontinence?

Every child is individual and it can be difficult to provide the exact reasons behind your their incontinence. In general terms, the medical community believe that it could be linked to certain developmental issues or a lack of communication between the bladder and the brain during sleep.

This means that the child simply does not wake up to go to the toilet. Even something as basic as an over production of urine could be the root cause. There is also a strong belief that bed wetting could be genetic, so if the parent suffered from incontinence at a young age there is an increased chance that their children will.

What Causes Day Time Incontinence?

There a broad range of reasons why children might suffer from daytime incontinence, with the most prevalent being that they simply become too engrossed in whatever activity they are currently participating in, that they forget to use the bathroom until it is too late. Urinary Tract abnormalities and diabetes can also be factors in this situation.

How is Incontinence in Children Normally Treated?

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Generally speaking, the method of treatment will be dependent on the perceived cause of the problem. In serious cases, the treatment can and does involve medication, but in the vast majority of cases, behaviour modification provides the best solution.

Positive reinforcement, reducing the volume of liquid a child drinks during the day or prior to bed depending on which form of incontinence they have, and regular trips to the bathroom can be all that is required to solve the problem. Of course, if the issue is related to stress or anxiety about something else causing secondary enuresis, then the incontinence itself is not the problem that needs to be tackled, it is merely a symptom of the underlying problem.

In most cases with some love, support, and encouragement from the parents, children will grow out of the problem, and hopefully this article will provide you with some encouragement and ideas on how to tackle the problem.

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