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Merck Manual

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Some Causes and Features of Nighttime Incontinence in Children

Some Causes and Features of Nighttime Incontinence in Children


Common Features*


Infrequent, hard, pebblelike stools

Sometimes abdominal discomfort

In children who consume a constipating diet (for example, excessive milk and dairy products and few fruits and vegetables)

A doctor's examination

Sometimes an x-ray of the abdomen

Stooling diary

Increased urine output, which can have many causes, such as

Vary by the disorder

For diabetes mellitus, urine tests for glucose (sugar) and ketones and/or a blood test

For diabetes insipidus or sickle cell disease, blood tests

Developmental delay

No daytime incontinence

More common among boys and heavy sleepers

Possibly family members who had wet the bed

A doctor's examination

Sometimes in children who snore and have pauses in breathing during sleep followed by loud snorts

Excessive daytime sleepiness

Enlarged tonsils

A sleep study test

Spinal defects (for example, spina bifida), leading to difficulty emptying the bladder (urinary retention)

Obvious spinal defects, a dimple or hair tuft in the lower back, and weakness or decreased sensation in the legs and feet

X-rays of the lower back

Sometimes MRI of the spine


School problems, social isolation or problems, and family stress (such as divorce or separation of the parents)

A doctor’s examination

Voiding diary

Pain while urinating, blood in the urine, the need to urinate frequently, and a sense of needing to urinate urgently


Abdominal pain

Urinalysis and urine culture

* Features include symptoms and the results of the doctor's examination. Features mentioned are typical but not always present.

MRI = magnetic resonance imaging.