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
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.
A urine dipstick test is often done as part of an overall urinalysis, but it also can be done on its own, depending on the doctor's concerns.
Once a urine sample is collected, a nurse or technician will place a specially treated chemical strip (dipstick) into your child's urine (pee). Patches on the dipstick will change color to indicate the presence of such things as white blood cells, protein, or glucose.
Why It's Done
The results of a urine dipstick test may point to a diagnosis of urinary tract infection (UTI), kidney disease, diabetes, or a urinary tract injury. If test results are abnormal, other tests will be needed before a definite diagnosis can be made.
No preparation other than cleansing the area around the urinary opening is required for the urine dipstick test.
Your child will be asked to urinate into a clean sample cup in the doctor's office. If your child isn't potty trained and can't urinate into a cup, a catheter (a narrow, soft tube) may need to be inserted into the bladder to obtain the urine specimen.
The skin surrounding the urinary opening has to be cleaned and rinsed just before the urine is collected. In this "clean-catch" method, you or your child cleans the skin around the urinary opening with a special towelette. The child then urinates, stops momentarily, and then urinates again into the collection container. Catching the urine in "midstream" is the goal. Be sure to wash your hands and your child's hands after this process.
Sometimes, if the doctor is concerned about a urinary problem that isn't due to an infection, a urine collection bag might be used to collect a sample from an infant. If you're doing the collection at home, you'll clean your baby's genital area and then arrange the bag around the urinary opening. Once the bag is in place, you'll secure it with the attached adhesive tape. You can put a diaper on your baby after you've attached the bag. You'll be instructed on how to remove the bag once your baby has urinated into it, usually within an hour.
Sometimes, if the doctor is concerned about a urinary problem that isn't due to an infection, a urine collection bag with adhesive tape on one end might be used to collect a sample from an infant. If you're doing the collection at home, you'll clean your baby's genital area and then arrange the bag around the urinary opening. Once the bag is in place, you'll secure it with the attached tape. You can put a diaper on your baby after you've attached the bag. You'll be instructed on how to remove the bag once your baby has urinated into it, usually within an hour.
Once collected, the technician or nurse will then place the dipstick into the urine sample. Collecting the specimen should only take a few minutes.
What to Expect
Because the test involves normal urination, there shouldn't be any discomfort as long as your child can provide a urine specimen. It's important to keep the area around the urinary opening clean before the test and to catch the urine sample midstream.
Getting the Results
The results of the urine dipstick test will be available right away. If abnormalities are found, further urine tests will be needed. Talk to your child's doctor about the meaning of the specific test results.
No risks are associated with taking a urine dipstick test. If a catheterized specimen is required, it may cause temporary discomfort.
Helping Your Child
The urine dipstick test is painless. Explaining how the test will be conducted, and why it's being done, can help ease your child's fear. Make sure your child understands that the urinary opening must be clean and the urine must be collected midstream.
If You Have Questions
If you have questions about the urine dipstick test, speak with your doctor.
Reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD
Date reviewed: April 28, 2017