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Enuresis is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Clinical Consult.

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  • Classification
    • Primary nocturnal enuresis (NE): 80% of all cases; person who has never established urinary continence on consecutive nights for a period of ≥6 months
    • Secondary NE: 20% of cases; resumption of enuresis after at least 6 months of urinary continence
  • NE: intermittent nocturnal incontinence after the anticipated age of bladder control (age 5 years)
    • Primary monosymptomatic NE (PMNE): bed wetting with no history of bladder dysfunction or other lower urinary tract (LUT) symptoms
    • Nonmonosymptomatic NE (NMNE): bed wetting with LUT symptoms such as frequency, urgency, daytime wetting, hesitancy, straining, weak or intermittent stream, posturination dribbling, lower abdominal or genital discomfort, or sensation of incomplete emptying

Adult-onset NE with absent daytime incontinence is a serious symptom; complete urologic evaluation and therapy are warranted.

  • System(s) affected: nervous, renal/urologic
  • Synonym(s): bed wetting; sleep enuresis; nocturnal incontinence; primary NE


  • Depends on family history
  • Spontaneous resolution: 15% per year

  • Very common; 5 to 7 million children in the United States (1)
  • 10% of 7-year-olds; 3% of 11 to 12-year-olds; 0.5–1.7% at 16 to 17-year-olds (2)
  • 1.5 to 2 times more common in males than females
  • Nocturnal > day (3:1)

Geriatric Considerations
Often associated with daytime incontinence (formerly referred to as diurnal enuresis)

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • A disorder of sleep arousal, a low nocturnal bladder capacity, and nocturnal polyuria are the three factors that interrelate to cause NE.
  • Both functional and organic causes (below); many theories, none absolutely confirmed
  • Detrusor instability
  • Deficiency of arginine vasopressin (AVP); decreased nocturnal AVP or decreased AVP stimulation secondary to an empty bladder (bladder distension stimulates AVP)
  • Maturational delay of CNS
  • Severe NE with some evidence of interaction between bladder overactivity and brain arousability: association with children with severe NE and frequent cortical arousals in sleep
  • Organic urologic causes in 1–4% of enuresis in children: UTI, occult spina bifida, ectopic ureter, lazy bladder syndrome, irritable bladder with wide bladder neck, posterior urethral valves, neurologic bladder dysfunction
  • Organic nonurologic causes: epilepsy, diabetes mellitus, food allergies, obstructive sleep apnea, chronic renal failure, hyperthyroidism, pinworm infection, sickle cell disease
  • NE occurs in all stages of sleep.


Most commonly, NE is an autosomal-dominant inheritance pattern with high penetrance (90%).

  • 1/3 of all cases are sporadic.
  • 75% of children with enuresis have a first-degree relative with the condition.
  • Higher rates in monozygotic versus dizygotic twins (68% vs. 36%)
  • If both parents had NE, risk in child is 77%; 44% if one parent is affected. Parental age of resolution often predicts when child’s enuresis should resolve.

Risk Factors

  • Family history
  • Stressors (emotional, environmental) common in secondary enuresis (e.g., divorce, death)
  • Constipation and/or encopresis
  • Organic disease: 1% of monosymptomatic NE (e.g., urologic and nonurologic causes)
  • Psychological disorders
    • Comorbid disorders are highest with secondary NE: depression, anxiety, social phobias, conduct disorder, hyperkinetic syndrome, internalizing disorders.
    • Association with ADHD; more pronounced in ages 9 to 12 years
  • Altered mental status or impaired mobility

General Prevention

No known measures

Commonly Associated Conditions

  • Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (10–54%) (1): Atrial natriuretic factor inhibits renin-angiotensin-aldosterone pathway leading to diuresis.
  • Constipation (33–75%) (1)
  • Behavioral problems (specifically ADHD in 12–17%) (1)
  • Overactive bladder or dysfunctional voiding (up to 41%) (1)
  • Urinary tract infection (18–60%) (1)

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Stephens, Mark B., et al., editors. "Enuresis." 5-Minute Clinical Consult, 27th ed., Wolters Kluwer, 2019. Medicine Central, im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116208/all/Enuresis.
Enuresis. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, et al, eds. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. 27th ed. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116208/all/Enuresis. Accessed April 18, 2019.
Enuresis. (2019). In Stephens, M. B., Golding, J., Baldor, R. A., & Domino, F. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Available from https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116208/all/Enuresis
Enuresis [Internet]. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, Domino FJ, editors. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. [cited 2019 April 18]. Available from: https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116208/all/Enuresis.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Enuresis ID - 116208 ED - Stephens,Mark B, ED - Golding,Jeremy, ED - Baldor,Robert A, ED - Domino,Frank J, BT - 5-Minute Clinical Consult, Updating UR - https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116208/all/Enuresis PB - Wolters Kluwer ET - 27 DB - Medicine Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -