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Keywords:

  • nocturnal enuresis;
  • bedwetting;
  • adolescent;
  • puberty

Objective  To assess the features of adolescent bedwetters, as few data are available on enuresis in this age group.

Patients and methods  A specific database for adolescents and young adults was created with the collaboration of various specialists (paediatricians, urologists, gynaecologists, psychiatrists). Questions focused on family and personal history, stressful events, age of attaining urinary and fecal control, characteristics of enuresis (primary vs secondary, monosymptomatic vs enuresis associated with daytime urinary symptoms), school performance, diagnostic examination and physical examinations, and treatment and its response.

Results  Data were collected from 107 enuretic adolescents (mean age 15.3 years, median 14, range 13–23; 63 males and 44 females). A positive family history for enuresis was recorded in 82%. Enuresis was primary in 79 patients (74%), secondary in 28 (26%), monosymptomatic in 76 (71%) and associated with daytime urinary symptoms in 31 (29%). In males monosymptomatic enuresis was significantly more frequent than in females (P < 0.01). Urinary tract infections were reported by 13 patients, all females; eating disorders (anorexia, polyphagia) were present in six. In 85 patients (80%) enuresis was considered severe (≥ three nights/week). Of the 107 patients, 27 (20%) had never consulted a doctor about their problem and 43 (40%) had received no therapy; 66 received desmopressin monotherapy, with a good response (half the number of wet nights) in 44 (79%). There was no relation between response to desmopressin and gender, age, type and severity of enuresis or positive family history of enuresis. Eight patients were provided with a nocturnal alarm but this was not tolerated by two. Altogether, 25 patients refused any therapy or did not comply with the given therapy.

Conclusions  Enuresis can persist into adolescence and be a significant problem; 80% of these patients had severe enuresis and 31% also had associated daytime urinary symptoms, with 40% receiving no previous therapy. The treatment of enuresis can be particularly difficult at this age; 22% of patients did not respond to desmopressin and 23% had low compliance with the given therapy. Enuresis in adolescents requires further study; hopefully more enuretic children will receive adequate treatment before reaching adolescence.