The Diagnosis and Treatment of Enuresis and Functional Daytime Urinary Incontinence

Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2019 Apr 19;116(16):279-285. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2019.0279.


Background: Elimination disorders in childhood are common and treatable. Approximately 10% of 7-year-olds wet the bed at night, and 6% are affected by incontinence during the daytime. Two main types of disturbance are distinguished: nocturnal enuresis and functional (i.e., non-organic) daytime urinary incontinence. Each type contains a wide variety of subtypes. Effective treatment requires precise identification of the subtype of elimination disorder.

Methods: This review is based on a selection of current publications, including principally the German S2k-AWMF guideline and the recommendations of the International Children's Continence Society (ICCS).

Results: Diagnostic assessment focuses on the clinical picture, is non-invasive, and can be carried out in most health care settings. If the child is suffering from multiple types of elimination disorder at once, then fecal incontinence or constipation is treated first, daytime urinary incontinence next, and enuresis last. 20-50% of children with elimination disorders have a comorbid mental disorder that also needs to be treated. With standard urotherapy, 56% of patients with daytime urinary incontinence become dry within a year. This conservative, symptom-oriented approach consists of educating the patient and his or her parents to promote behavior changes with respect to drinking and micturition. Elements of specific urotherapy are provided only if indicated. For enuresis, the treatment of first choice is alarm therapy, with which 50-70% of the affected children become dry. Pharmacotherapy, e.g., with desmopressin, can be a helpful adjunctive treatment. In intractable cases, training techniques have been found useful.

Conclusion: Childhood elimination disorders can be treated effectively after targeted diagnostic evaluation and the establishment of specific indications for treatment. In view of the emotional distress these disorders cause, the associated physical and mental disturbances, and their potential persistence into adolescence, they should be evaluated and treated in affected children from the age of five years onward.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Diurnal Enuresis* / diagnosis
  • Diurnal Enuresis* / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Nocturnal Enuresis* / diagnosis
  • Nocturnal Enuresis* / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome