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Bedwetting: Advice for teenagers and young adults

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Time To Take Action: World Bedwetting Day 2021

For World Bedwetting Day 2021 Bladder & Bowel UK are releasing a series of blogs to help increase understanding of a problem that is not often discussed, but causes stress and distress throughout the world to children, young people, and their families as well as some adults. Here, you can find advice on bedwetting for teenagers and young adults.

Bedwetting in teenagers and young adults

Bedwetting is a very common problem in children, but is less well known about in teenagers and young adults.  However, many in this age group find it not only embarrassing and distressing, but difficult to deal with.

What causes bedwetting in teenagers and young adults?

Bedwetting is caused by a combination of problems:

  • Not being able to reduce the amount of urine that the kidneys produce overnight. A special chemical messenger, called vasopressin, usually gets released at night to tell the kidneys to make less urine than they do during the day. That is why most people can stay dry, even if they sleep for eight or more hours a night. If there is not enough vasopressin, then too much urine will be made during sleep.
  • Not being able to hold onto all the urine that is made. This may be because the bladder is not big enough, or not working well enough. If the bladder is too small or gets ‘twitchy’ when it fills then it is more likely to empty overnight, even if the kidneys do reduce the amount of urine they make while the person is asleep
  • The brain is unable to wake the person up, when the bladder signals that it needs to empty. Not being able to wake up to bladder signals is the main reason for wetting the bed. People who can wake up to go to the toilet will do so. It is the not being able to wake up that causes the wet bed.

Bedwetting is not your fault. it may be helpful to be aware that, not drinking enough during the day, fizzy drinks, drinks with caffeine in, eating salty or high protein foods just before going to sleep, forgetting to empty your bladder before going to sleep and being constipated, may cause bedwetting tor make it worse.

Why haven’t I grown out of bedwetting?

Some children do grow out of bedwetting. However, this is most likely to happen in younger children who are only wet on a few nights a week. Those who wet every night or most nights are least likely to just get better with time.  Although that does sometimes happen, it is not possible to predict who will just get better with no treatment and who will not.

Is there anything I can do to try and help the bedwetting get better?

There are a few things that you can do to help bedwetting improve. Although you may have already tried these with no success, that does not necessarily mean they will not help now.  So, if you are not already doing them, it is always worth trying to see if they do make any difference:

  • Make sure you drink well during the day. Having enough water-based drinks will help your bladder to fill properly and stretch to the size that is should be. It will also help to prevent constipation, which can make bedwetting worse. Teenage girls should be drinking about 1 ½ – 2litres of water-based drinks a day and teenage boys should have about 2 – 2 ½litres per day. This should be divided equally into six to eight drinks with the last drink at least an hour before sleep.
  • Avoid fizzy and caffeinated drinks, including energy drinks. These can irritate the bladder and cause it to need to become ‘twitchy’. This can make bedwetting worse.
  • Avoid eating in the hour before bed. Particularly avoid salty foods and those that are high in protein. Salt and protein encourage the kidneys to make more urine than usual.
  • Make sure you go to the toilet just before you settle to sleep.

I have tried all this and am still having wet nights – what else can I do?

If making changes to your lifestyle have not helped, then contact your healthcare professional and ask for an assessment and some treatment. The most common first-line treatments for bedwetting are an alarm or desmopressin. The alarm works by making a loud noise as soon as you start to wet. This is meant to wake you so that you can go to the toilet.  Over a few weeks most people learn to either sleep through the night without needing to wee, or they learn to wake before they are wet.  Desmopressin is a melt or tablet that tells your kidneys to make less urine while you are asleep and is very effective for some people.

About 40 – 60 % of people do not respond to just one treatment for bedwetting. They may need to use both the alarm and the Desmopressin at the same time. Some also need a medication to help their bladder to hold onto urine better. The medicines usually used are from a group called anticholinergics. Your healthcare professional should be able to discuss the most appropriate treatment(s) with you.

I have used these treatments when I was younger – they didn’t work then

Many teenagers and young people who have previously had treatment for bedwetting that did not work , or that did work but where the wetting started again later may feel frustrated, upset, anxious and as if they will always have this problem. However, as we grow up our bodies change. Therefore, treatments that did not work when you were younger may work well later.  Therefore, you should discuss options with your healthcare professional. You can also ask whether there is a local specialist service that you can be referred to.

Where can I find more information about bedwetting in teenagers?

Bladder & Bowel UK is a national charity. It provides information that is free to access, download and print about bladder and bowel conditions and management solutions for people of all ages on their website here. Information on bedwetting is available here.

There is also information on bedwetting on the Stop Bedwetting website. There is information about World Bedwetting Day available here.

Bladder & Bowel UK produce a free quarterly electronic newsletter for the public called Talk About. Talk About is full of interesting articles, suggestions and information for people affected by bladder and bowel conditions. To receive this fill in the form here and ask to be added to the mailing list.

You can contact the Bladder & Bowel UK confidential helpline by filling in the web form or phoning us on 0161 214 4591.

This World Bedwetting Day, Take Action. Contact your healthcare professional if bedwetting is a problem for you or your child.

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