Untreated childhood bladder problems can persist into teenage years

In a major new study, researchers working on the University of Bristol Alspac project have found that children who have wetting accidents both during the day and at night are more likely to have bladder problems during their teenage years if left untreated.

What the study found

  • Children who wet themselves both during the day and at night had a 23-fold increased risk of bedwetting at age 14. This compares to a three-fold increase of bedwetting in those who only wet the bed in childhood.
  • Being wet both during the day and at night was more common in boys than girls, but daytime wetting only was more common in girls than boys.
  • Children who wet themselves during the day (but not at night) had a 10-fold increased risk of still having the same condition in adolescence compared to children with normal bladder control. They were also more likely to report delaying going to the toilet and having hard stools.
  • Children who were older when they achieved bladder control were also more likely to experience bedwetting when they were aged 14.

Speaking about the findings, the lead researcher Dr Carol Joinson commented: Urinary incontinence is common in childhood and if not managed properly can seriously affect a child’s quality of life and self-esteem. Incontinence gets harder to treat as children grow older. It also becomes more socially unacceptable, which can significantly impact on a person’s quality of life, mental health and ability to hold down a job. There’s lots of professional help available and it’s important to access it in good time. A “wait and see” approach is not always appropriate and we would encourage parents, teachers and GPs to seek help for affected children.”

A wait and see approach is not always appropriate and we would encourage parents, teachers and GPs to seek help for affected children

Juliette Randall, CEO at ERIC added: “The impact of struggling with continence issues can be devastating for children, teenagers and their families and we hope this research will raise awareness of the issue and encourage more people to seek help and support.”

Help and information

Researchers at the University of Bristol and have produced teen-friendly materials for ERIC in collaboration with a group of young people.

Teenagers can get information and support on bladder and bowel problems and find out where to go for help.

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