Enuresis--background and treatment

Scand J Urol Nephrol Suppl. 2000:(206):1-44.


Nocturnal urinary continence is dependent on 3 factors: 1) nocturnal urine production, 2) nocturnal bladder function and 3) sleep and arousal mechanisms. Any child will suffer from nocturnal enuresis if more urine is produced than can be contained in the bladder or if the detrusor is hyperactive, provided that he or she is not awakened by the imminent bladder contraction. Urine production is regulated by fluid intake and several interrelated renal, hormonal and neural factors, foremost of which are vasopressin, renin, angiotensin and the sympathetic nervous system. Detrusor function is governed by the autonomic nervous system which under ideal conditions is under central nervous control. Arousal from sleep is dependent on the reticular activating system, a diffuse neural network that translates sensory input into arousal stimuli via brain stem noradrenergic neurons. Disturbances in nocturnal urine production, bladder function and arousal mechanisms have all been firmly implicated as pathogenetic factors in nocturnal enuresis. The group of enuretic children are, however, pathogenetically heterogeneous, and two main types can be discerned: 1) Diuresis-dependent enuresis - these children void because of excessive nocturnal urine production and impaired arousal mechanisms. 2) Detrusor-dependent enuresis - these children void because of nocturnal detrusor hyperactivity and impaired arousal mechanisms. The main clinical difference between the two groups is that desmopressin is usually effective in the former but not in the latter. There are two first-line therapies in nocturnal enuresis: the enuresis alarm and desmopressin medication. Promising second-line treatments include anticholinergic drugs, urotherapy and treatment of occult constipation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arousal / physiology
  • Child
  • Enuresis / physiopathology*
  • Enuresis / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Urinary Bladder / physiopathology