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Incontinence in Children

Slower Physical Development
Between the ages of 5 and 10, nocturnal incontinence may be the result of a small bladder capacity, long sleeping periods, and underdevelopment of the body's alarms that signal a full or emptying bladder. This form of incontinence usually fades away as the bladder grows, and the natural alarms become operational.
Excessive Output of Urine During Sleep
Normally, the body produces a hormone that can slow the production of urine. This hormone is called antidiuretic hormone, or ADH. The body normally produces more ADH at night, so that the need to urinate is lower. If the body doesn't produce enough ADH at night, the production of urine may not be slowed down, leading to bladder overfilling. If a child does not sense the bladder filling and awaken to urinate, then wetting will occur.
Experts suggest that anxiety-causing events, occurring in the lives of children ages 2 to 4, might lead to incontinence, before the child achieves total bladder control. Anxiety experienced after age 4 might lead to wetting after the child has been dry for a period of 6 months or more. Such events can include:
  • Angry parents
  • Unfamiliar social situations
  • Overwhelming family events, such as the birth of a brother or sister.
Incontinence itself is an anxiety-causing event. Strong bladder contractions, leading to leakage in the daytime, can cause embarrassment and anxiety that lead to wetting at night.
Certain inherited genes appear to contribute to incontinence. In 1995, Danish researchers announced they had found a site on human chromosome 13 that is responsible, at least in part, for nighttime wetting. If both parents were bed-wetters, a child has an 80 percent chance of being a bed-wetter also. Experts believe that other, undetermined genes may also be involved in incontinence.
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