Nocturnal enuresis in children: The role of arginine-vasopressin

Handb Clin Neurol. 2021:181:289-297. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-820683-6.00021-X.


Nocturnal enuresis is the involuntary pass of urine during sleep beyond the age of 5 years. It is a common condition in childhood and has an impact on the child's well-being. Research into the pathophysiology of the condition in the last decades has led to a paradigm shift, and enuresis is no longer considered a psychiatric disorder but rather a maturation defect with a somatic background. An excess urine production during sleep is a common finding in children with enuresis and disturbances in the circadian rhythm of arginine-vasopressin (AVP) is found in the majority of children with nocturnal polyuria. Children with enuresis and nocturnal polyuria lack the physiologic increase in AVP levels during sleep and treatment with the AVP analogue desmopressin can restore this rhythm and lead to dry nights. The reasons for this aberrant circadian AVP rhythm are not established. Furthermore, not all children with enuresis and nocturnal polyuria can be successfully treated with desmopressin suggesting that factors beyond renal water handling can be implicated such as natriuresis, hypercalciuria, and sleep-disordered breathing. The advances in the research of the genetic background of the condition may shed further light on the enuresis pathophysiology.

Keywords: Bladder; Desmopressin; Incontinence; Nocturia; Nocturnal polyuria; Sodium homeostasis; Water balance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arginine
  • Arginine Vasopressin
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Deamino Arginine Vasopressin / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Nocturnal Enuresis* / therapy
  • Polyuria
  • Vasopressins


  • Vasopressins
  • Arginine Vasopressin
  • Arginine
  • Deamino Arginine Vasopressin