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How to deal with adult bedwetting

When seeing a doctor, it is important for the

When seeing a doctor, it is important for the one who does not bed wet to accompany their partner to hospital to find out exactly what is wrong and how to deal with it in the long-term. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

Bedwetting is considered a child’s problem and generally speaking, even children above the age of seven years are considered too old to wet the bed.

However, adult bedwetting is a relatively common problem much as it is not talked about openly. In most cases, it is a treatable condition but often people are too embarrassed to seek medical advice.

What could be wrong?

Primary incontinence

Most children stop bed wetting between 4-7years. Some people, however, carry on bed wetting into adulthood.

This is a particularly difficult form of bed wetting to deal with as most people have tried the usual conventional ways to stop without success. Research has shown that it may be hereditary.

Bladder irritability

The muscle of the bladder usually allows for it to fill up before it sends signals to the brain telling you that you need to pee. In some cases, the bladder muscle may be overactive and cause you to pee in an erratic manner.

This over-activity is usually worsened by substances such as caffeine and alcohol.

Bladder cancer

Cancer can block parts of the bladder (specifically the area which control opening of the bladder). This leads to inability to control urination patterns. In addition, sometimes the treatment for these cancers can cause incontinence as a side-effect.


Diabetes has been known to cause increased urination both during the day and at night. Usually, the volumes of urine passed tend to be quite large which can lead to the occasional ‘night time accident’. Diabetes can also affect the nerves which control the bladder causing unusual urination patterns.

Medication side-effect

Certain medication can cause you to urinate more frequently (these medicines are known as diuretics). This is true for medication used to treat high blood pressure and kidney disease. It is, therefore, not unusual for people who start using diuretics to have difficulty controlling their bathroom habits during the first few weeks of therapy.

(This increased urination is the reason why most people fail to comply with their treatment. To help deal with the problem of urinating too often at night, take the tablet first thing in the morning if you are on a once daily dosage). People taking sleeping tablets may also find that they are unable to wake up at night even when their bladder is full.

Neurological disorders

Conditions that affect the nervous system such as Parkinson’s, spinal cord injury and stroke can cause difficulty in controlling one’s bladder.

Prostate problems

Any condition that causes enlargement or change in the structure of the prostate can make urination a problem. Most men with prostate problems notice that they cannot pass urine with the same ease that they did when they were younger and it is not unusual for urine to dribble out at night when least expected.

Urinary tract infection

Infections of the bladder can cause it to be irritated resulting in painful urination. In addition, it makes one urinate more frequently and sometimes one can get incontinent (and wet the bed).

Urinary tract stones

Stones in the urinary system can sometimes cause blockage in the usual flow of urine. This causes urine to pass out unexpectedly. Usually, this clears when the stone is passed out of the body.

Anxiety and stress

This is more common among teenagers who begin to bed wet after years of control.

It usually happens when they are faced with tough problems which they cannot deal with, for example bullying or violence at home. It may be associated with night terrors (vivid nightmares).

After childbirth

Women who have a particularly difficult labour may develop incontinence after childbirth. If there is no damage to the bladder, the next culprit is the weakness of the pelvic floor muscles. These can be strengthened over time with exercises such as kegels.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)

This is a condition in which one experiences difficulty breathing while asleep. Most of these people snore and may even stop breathing temporarily.

This is a serious condition which can happen in people whose airways (behind the nose and throat) are either too floppy or have a blockage.

Apart from the poor quality of sleep these people have, they sometimes also find themselves wetting the bed.

When to see a doctor

Anyone who begins to wet the bed as an adult must seek medical advice. When you go to see the doctor, expect that he/she will do a thorough physical examination (including your genitals and prostate).

They will also ask very detailed and personal questions regarding your physical and mental wellbeing.

They may order various tests including urine tests to check for infections, bladder studies (where various imaging tests are done when your bladder is full and while you are peeing) and if necessary, some neurological tests may be done.


Although supportive treatment such as setting an alarm to wake you up at night to pee or minimising your fluid intake at night is useful, treatment of adult bed wetting must always be directed at the underlying cause.

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