Ask The Expert: What Causes Bedwetting In Adults? (And How Can I Make It Stop?)

What Causes Bedwetting In Adults?

Question:

I’m a 40 year old man and have struggled with bedwetting on and off for several years.  It’s very embarrassing and I feel ashamed and alone. What causes bedwetting in adults, and how do I make it stop?

Expert Answer: 

Believe it or not, this is a common question we hear from adults. Bedwetting isn’t just limited to kids, and may be caused by a number of things, such as certain medications you’re taking, other medical conditions, or issues with your bladder. The good news is there are many ways to manage it.

Causes of Adult Bedwetting

There are many things that may be contributing to adult bedwetting.

Medications.

Certain medications can cause you to experience adult bedwetting. Hypnotics, some insomnia medications and certain drugs designed to treat mental or mood disorders may have the side effect of bedwetting. Talk to your doctor about what you’re taking to see if it may be contributing to nighttime wetting.

Genetics.

Believe it or not, you may be able to blame your family for your bedwetting woes.  Studies have found that when one parent has had a history of wetting the bed as a child, their son or daughter had a 40% chance of having it as well.  This likely carries into adulthood too.

Hormones

Some hormone imbalances can cause bedwetting. ADH is an anti-duretic hormone that typically signals the kidneys to produce less urine. If your levels of ADH are off, or your kidneys are not responding to the ADH signals, you may produce too much urine during your sleep, which could result in wetting the bed. 

Other Medical Conditions.

There are many other medical conditions that can contribute to adult bedwetting, such as UTIs, problems with the prostate, sleep apnea, or even diabetes. It’s very important to speak with your doctor about adult bedwetting in order to rule out any of these causes.

Stress and anxiety.

Ongoing stress or anxiety about a situation you are going through may trigger adult bedwetting, which may last long after your stressful problem is over.

Nocturia.

Nocturia is defined as needing to go to the bathroom more than once per night.  This is typically caused by the kidneys producing too much urine, and can lead to bedwetting if you’re unable to wake up at night to use the bathroom.

Overactive Bladder.

With overactive bladder, the bladder muscles become spastic causing the sudden need to go to the bathroom, and often. 70-80% of adult bedwetting patients have been found to have overactive bladder. 

Small Bladder.

Some people are simply not able to hold the amount of urine that they produce at night. This often results in bedwetting. 

How To Stop Adult Bedwetting

There are many ways to treat adult bedwetting. You’ll want to make an appointment with your doctor to determine the cause of your bedwetting, and to find a treatment that will work best with your lifestyle. 

 Protection.

It pretty much goes without saying that if you’re experiencing bedwetting you’ll want to get some protection. But did you know that not all adult absorbents are equal? You can look for products that are extra absorbent or specify nighttime use. Fit is also a very important part of preventing leaks so don’t be hesitant to try out a few products until you find one that’s comfortable and works. Lastly, for extra protection, try a waterproof mattress pad. It may seem like a hassle, but you’ll thank yourself later if you do end up leaking.

Bladder retraining.

The bladder is a muscle, and just like any muscle, it can be trained over time.  Bladder retraining may help you condition yourself to go longer in between bathroom breaks and you can even try using an alarm to wake you up at certain times of the night to use the toilet.  Over time, you may be able to reduce the number of times you have to get up.

Limit fluids before bed.

Don’t let yourself get dehydrated, but try cutting liquids off an hour or so before bedtime. This is especially true for things like alcohol or caffeine, which can irritate the bladder.

Try a bed-wetting alarm.

There are lots of different types of bed-wetting alarms on the market. These work by waking you when the alarm detects the slightest bit of wetness so that you can make it to the bathroom and avoid an accident. 

Medications

There are some medications that can help treat bladder leaks and may help with bedwetting. Click here to learn more about medications that can be used for adult bedwetting.

Surgical treatment options.

If all else fails, surgery may be an option for treating adult bedwetting. Sacral nerve stimulation, clam cystoplasty and detrusor myctomy are all surgical procedures that may treat adult bedwetting.  Be sure to talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks associated with each one.

We know that as an adult, bedwetting can be a very sensitive topic and can cause deep embarrassment.  But know that you’re not alone – millions suffer from adult bedwetting and there are treatments that can help. 

Talking to others may help calm some of the emotional aspects of adult bedwetting. Join the NAFC message boards to hear stories from others, share your own, or ask for advice.  Our message boards are anonymous and provide a great source of community for those living with incontinence and adult bedwetting.

Do you have any tips that have helped you manage adult bedwetting?  Share them in the comments below!

Patient Perspective: Ethan's Story. Overcoming Adult Bedwetting

Ethan's Story of Overcoming Adult Bedwetting

I am an adult bed wetter.  Those are hard words to say for a 52 year old man. I first started experiencing nighttime leaks when I was in my teens.  Just once in awhile. I’d laugh it off with my brother.  

But as I grew further into adulthood and it kept happening, I knew it was no longer a laughing matter. I found that the problem worsened when I went away to college and I took great pains to keep it hidden from my roommate.  I dared not buy protection from the stores near my campus for fear of someone seeing me, so I would drive an hour away just to pick up whatever absorbent pads I could find, which usually were not a great fit and didn’t do a lot to protect me.  I put blankets on my bed to absorb the leaks, but they didn’t help mask the odor.  

After college I got my own place, without roommates, so I wouldn’t have to worry so much about them finding out. I finally made the decision to speak to a doctor at age 30 – nearly 14 years after suffering from this problem on and off.  

While I still don’t know the reason I wet the bed, my doctor helped me find resources to manage the condition.  After trying several different absorbent products, I finally found one that fits well and is specific to nighttime use, so I rarely wake up anymore with leaks.  

I’ve also discovered that I’m not the only one out there with this problem – NAFC’s message boards have really helped me connect with others and sharing with them has been such a relief.  After years of embarrassment and isolation, I’m so thankful to have found help and to know that I’m not alone.

Ethan S., San Jose, CA

Ask The Expert: Protective Underwear or Adult Absorbent Briefs - What's The Difference?

What's The Difference Between Protective Underwear And Absorbent Briefs?

Each month, we ask our expert panel to answer one of our reader's questions. To learn more about the NAFC Expert Panel, and how to submit your own question, see below.

Question: What is the difference between protective underwear (pull-ups) and adult absorbent briefs?

Answer: In the world of absorbent products, it can be hard to find something that works with your needs.  Most adults who wet the bed use some type of protection, usually protective underwear, or an adult absorbent brief.  

Protective underwear are designed to mimic real underwear, and, unlike absorbent briefs, do not have any tape or velcro siding. Many who prefer this pull-on option like it because of it’s convenience - pull ups are easy to put on or remove, and give users a sense of freedom from the typical brief style.  

Absorbent briefs are similar to protective underwear, but have side tabs that can be adjusted for comfort and fit.  Although they may not be as convenient, many prefer this option since they are able to adjust the side tabs, therefore creating a more custom, snug fit which can prevent leaks.  

Choosing the option that is right for you or your loved one may involve some trial and error, and will depend on your circumstances. Do you wake up often at night to use the restroom? Protective underwear may work best for you due to the ease of pulling them on and off. Do you care for someone who is more bedridden and needs more assistance with getting in and out of bed or changing clothes?  Briefs may be preferred since the tabs make it easier to find a good fit and can be easier for caretakers to change.  

Of course, finding a product that will keep you dry is the biggest goal, and relies heavily on fit (it shouldn’t be too big or too small), absorbency (look for products that are specific to night-time use), and function.  Don’t be afraid to try lots of options until you find something that fits well and is comfortable.  

Announcing NAFC's New Dry Night Solution Kit: A Treatment Option For Adult Bedwetters

We are thrilled to announce a new offering from NAFC, in partnership with HDIS, for the many adults who struggle with bedwetting.

Over 5,000,000 American adults of all ages experience bedwetting.  This problem can be isolating and embarrassing, and can lead to many frustrated mornings.  Many people with this condition keep it a secret, and struggle with finding the right products or solutions to help them. Fortunately, there’s no reason why anyone should have to wake up wet.  

The new NAFC Dry Night Solution Kit provides education and customized products to fit your specific needs.  When you sign up to get your kit, you’ll get immediate access to educational brochures chock full of great info on what causes bedwetting and what you can do about it.  You’ll also receive a number to call, where you’ll have the chance to speak with a qualified professional who will assemble a custom kit full of products that will help you wake up dry.  

Kits are available for a limited time.  To learn more about the kit, and to order yours, click here.  You’ll then receive an email with access to digital bedwetting brochures, and a phone number and promotion code to use to get your Dry Night Solution Kit.  

Order your kit today!