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What Causes Some Teens to Wet the Bed?

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

Approximately 4 percent of boys and 2 percent of girls wet the bed during adolescence, according to HealthyChildren.org, a website published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Most teens who struggle with what's medically referred to as nocturnal enuresis were born with weak bladder control -- a condition known as primary nocturnal enuresis. The remainder of teens who wet the bed suffer from secondary nocturnal enuresis, which means bed-wetting problems resurfaced after they'd been dry for an extended period.

Primary Nocturnal Enuresis

Bladder control is effective when nerves in the bladder inform the brain that the bladder is full. The brain responds in kind by letting the bladder know it should hold the urine until the person is ready to use the bathroom. The brains of teens with primary nocturnal enuresis might not be getting the message, which causes them to urinate by accident. A smaller bladder might also be responsible for primary nocturnal enuresis, notes the National Association for Continence. In this case, the word "smaller" refers to the amount of urine the bladder will keep contained until it tells the brain it's time to urinate rather than to the actual size of the bladder. Teens with primary nocturnal enuresis might also produce an insufficient amount of an anti-diuretic hormone that prompts the body to generate less urine overnight.

Secondary Nocturnal Enuresis

Urinary tract infections, obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep disorders, diabetes, constipation and stress might increase the risk of secondary nocturnal enuresis in teens. In rare instances, sports injuries, vehicle accidents and spinal cord trauma can trigger secondary nocturnal enuresis. Some medications, including those taken for insomnia and psychiatric disorders such as clozapine, risperidone and thioridazine might trigger secondary nocturnal enuresis, notes the NAFC. Teens who consume caffeinated foods or beverages to excess might encourage the bladder to produce more urine, resulting in secondary nocturnal enuresis.

Home Remedies

Limiting or eliminating caffeine might be enough to eliminate secondary nocturnal enuresis in some teens. Faithfully using the bathroom right before going to be bed also might help. Waking up your teen during the night to use the toilet might help prevent bed wetting. A device known as an enuretic alarm contains moisture sensitive sensors that will vibrate, buzz or beep the second it detects urine. The alarm works well the majority of the time -- when a teen is motivated. A technique called positive imagery might help some teens stay dry overnight. This visualization system could include imagining yourself dry or telling yourself before you go to sleep that you will wake up dry.

Medications

Desmopressin and imipramine and are two medications approved for primary nocturnal enuresis. When taken in high doses, imipramine, a tricyclic-antidepressant can cause cardiotoxicity -- or heart muscle damage, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Desmopressin is a synthetic antidiuretic hormone. Side effects can include headaches, nosebleeds and nasal irritation. Both medications improve nocturnal enuresis approximately 50 percent of the time. Teens with secondary nocturnal enuresis might also benefit from desmopressin.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

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