Voiding Dysfunction

About Voiding Dysfunction

Enuresis (involuntary peeing that is abnormal for a child’s age) is one of the most common types of voiding dysfunction, and includes both nighttime wetting (nocturnal enuresis) and daytime wetting (diurnal enuresis).

Children often exhibit posturing behaviors, (pee-pee dance, cross their legs, squat). Although it is normal for very young children to do this as they are learning to toilet train, sometimes these symptoms can continue even as the child grows older.

Voiding dysfunction may cause a child to run to the bathroom frequently. Children may have to urinate every 10-30 minutes or in less severe cases, every 1-3 hours. They will often urinate small volumes or feel the urge to urinate again soon after voiding.

 
What causes voiding dysfunction?

The bladder is a muscle that stores urine, and it empties by contracting the muscle. A normally functioning bladder only contracts when it is at full capacity (the normal amount of urine that it can hold comfortably) and it is time to void.

When the bladder is irritable or overactive, it tends to contract at will, regardless of how much urine it is holding. It’s important for you to know that what your child is feeling is real and they do not have conscious control over it.

Constipation often contributes to these symptoms of voiding dysfunction. Your child may have mild to moderate constipation without complaining and the rectum and colon can stretch to accommodate the stool. This causes pushing on the bladder resulting in urgency/frequency, a decrease in capacity, and incomplete emptying.

 
How is voiding dysfunction diagnosed and treated?
In diagnosing overactive bladder, your Nemours pediatric urology team will do few things to rule out infection, or any serious, but rare, disorder:
  • thorough health history
  • physical exam
  • urinalysis and urine culture
  • renal and bladder ultrasound to check for bladder and kidney abnormalities
  • urine flow study (which uses a special toilet to measure your child’s voiding pattern)
  • post void residual (similar to the ultrasound, this is done after voiding to make sure your child is able to empty his or her bladder completely)

We will also ask you to keep a Voiding/Bowel Diary (PDF). This diary provides invaluable information that helps our Nemours pediatric urologists assess your child’s exact voiding problem. It will tell us how frequently your child is voiding, how much their bladder is letting them hold, if there is wetting and when this wetting occurs in relation to voiding. It will also allow us to better assess their stooling pattern and assure there is no constipation.

Most children will outgrow the symptoms of overactive bladder on their own without intervention, if there is no abnormality present. Your Nemours urologist may recommend some medications to relax the bladder depending on your preference and the age of your child.

Addressing your child’s symptoms of overactive bladder and wetting can dramatically improve your child’s quality of life. We often see children’s nighttime bedwetting improve after their daytime symptoms are addressed.

What Can I Do About My Child's Bedwetting?

My 12-year-old son still frequently wets the bed. How can I help him?
Mark

Bedwetting, or enuresis, affects many older kids and even teens. Although the chances are good that your son will outgrow the condition, consider talking to your doctor, who can help determine possible causes and suggest the best treatment.

Treatment methods may include behavior modification, the use of a bedwetting alarm, medication, counseling, and other methods. Most important, knowing that he has the support and understanding of his family can help your son to feel less frustrated or ashamed about wetting the bed.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: October 2012

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