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Quick Facts on Enuresis

A brief overview of the signs and symptoms of the disorder, and how it's treated in children and adolescents.

en Español


Enuresis is a disorder characterized by a child’s repeated voiding of urine into his bed or clothing, night or day. It’s diagnosed only in children who are 5 or older. The incontinence is usually involuntary, but sometimes voluntary. Some children with enuresis may not notice that they need to go to the bathroom, or may realize it and then become distracted and forget to go until it is too late. While most children outgrow enuresis by adolescence, the disorder can cause them great embarrassment and may create frustration and strain in the family. Incontinence at night is more common among boys, and incontinence during the day is more common in girls.


  • Urinary incontinence on a regular basis, especially if it’s a new behavior
  • Incontinence at night, during the day, or both
  • May be involuntary or intentional
  • Children with the disorder are frequently very heavy sleepers
  • Creates problems for the child in school, at home and/or in social environments

Treatment for Enuresis

Most cases of enuresis are treated through behavioral therapy, although in some cases medication may be prescribed.

Psychotherapeutic: Moisture alarms – sensors that detect moisture and will wake a child whenever he begins to wet the bed – have proven extremely effective in treating enuresis, though they may take several weeks. Other options include limiting liquid and caffeine intake at night, encouraging frequent urination, and rewarding kids for each “dry” night.

Pharmacological: There are some medical options for treating enuresis, but they only work in the short term; when the child stops taking the medicine he will resume wetting his bed. Desmopressin causes less urine to be produced at night. If a child has a small bladder, another option might be Ditropan or Levinsin, which increases bladder capacity and decreases bladder contractions.

This article was last reviewed or updated on October 30, 2023.