What Causes Bed Wetting in Adults?

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  • Written By: Alicia Sparks
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 10 August 2019
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Bed wetting in adults, also known as nocturnal enuresis, has many causes that can vary from genetic inconveniences to serious health conditions. For example, bedwetting causes might include a small bladder, an inadequate functional bladder capacity, and an insufficient production of the hormones that decrease urine production. On the other hand, bed wetting in adults can be caused by medical problems such as diabetes, cancer, and neurological disorders. There are various treatments for bed wetting in adults, including behavioral changes, medications, and surgery. An adult experiencing nighttime bed wetting should consult a physician before beginning any treatment and to make sure the reason for the involuntary urination isn’t life threatening.

Some causes of bed wetting in adults are more sources of inconvenience than health-threatening medical conditions. For example, an adult might experience nocturnal enuresis due to anatomical conditions such as a small bladder. Having a small bladder makes a person’s functional bladder capacity lower than necessary to make it through the night without needing to urinate. Detrusor overactivity, which can cause unnecessary muscle contractions, can cause involuntary urination at night. Also, a person’s body might produce a low amount of the antidiuretic hormone that slows the kidneys’ production of urine.


Note that bed wetting in adults can also be caused by, or a symptom of, a more serious underlying health condition. Some serious bedwetting causes for adults could be diabetes, neurological and urological disorders, or a prostate, kidney, or bladder problem including cancer. A sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea, which can block a person’s breathing, can also cause nighttime bed wetting for adults. These kinds of conditions should be diagnosed and treated immediately. Other health conditions that can cause bed wetting in adults include urinary tract infections or stones, which are serious if left untreated but are usually more easily treated than the other health problems.

Any treatment for bed wetting in adults should be approved by a doctor, and a doctor should always be consulted just in case the reason for the adult’s nighttime bed wetting is serious. Common treatments for nocturnal enuresis consist of behavioral changes, medications, and even surgery. A person might be advised to decrease his daily fluid intake or stop drinking fluids after a certain time of day, or practice bladder volume control, which is the practice of training one’s bladder to hold fluid for longer periods of time. The wide variety of medications for nocturnal enuresis are designed to produce results such as decreased urine production and controlled bladder spasms. Surgical options are much less common and usually only used in severe cases when behavioral changes and medications aren’t successful.


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