Typically, when we think about bedwetting, we picture a toddler who’s just going through potty training. But in reality, as we age, adults become more prone to bedwetting too. Nearly 3% of adults over 75 age experience bouts of nocturnal enuresis (the medical term for bedwetting).
Causes of adult and elderly bedwetting include overactive bladder, prostate enlargement, sleep apnea, medication side effects, diabetes, and urinary tract infections, to name a few.
Start tracking elderly bedwetting
If this nighttime incontinence arises, keep a detailed record of when it happens, bathroom habits, and even a food diary for a few days. This bedwetting diary can help your medical professional to determine potential causes, as well as the best treatment plan.
You can track information such as:
- What time of day or night the accident happened
- The approximate amount of urine voided during the accident
- Bathroom usage throughout the day and night
- Any existing medical conditions or medications
- Any other symptoms or concerns that have arisen
Share this information with the doctor in as much or little details as you’re able to provide to help guide their diagnosis, determine any tests to order, and offer a care plan.
What are the causes of bedwetting in older adults?
Just like your good looks and smarts, your bedwetting might have hereditary causes. One study showed that a person with two bedwetting parents has a 77% chance of becoming a bedwetter. When one parent wet the bed as a child, his son or daughter was found to have a 40% chance! This is true even into adulthood.
Medication Side Effects
Some medications irritate the bladder and can result in more frequent urination or nighttime enuresis. Talk to your doctor about these side effects.
Urinary tract infections can make it that you pee more frequently, even if the bladder isn’t full. Thankfully, this is a treatable medical condition, so if no permanent damage is done, you should be back to your normal self after treatment.
ADH is the hormone responsible for telling your kidneys to make less urine during the night. When the hormone is in short-supply or your kidneys don’t respond to it, you may experience bedwetting at night.
A small bladder can’t hold as much urine, naturally, and this can cause leaks or more frequent urination.
Your bladder works by squeezing the bladder muscles when you’re peeing. An overactive bladder (OAB) squeezes the muscles too frequently or at the wrong times. Aren’t bodies neat?
Other causes for bedwetting in adults may include stress, constipation, sleep apnea, diabetes, seizures, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and prostate or bladder cancer.
What to do if you or someone in your care wets the bed at night
See the Doctor
If you or someone in your care has developed nighttime enuresis, the first thing to do is see the doctor. They can determine the underlying causes, including any medical issues at play, and work with you to find the best solutions.
You can find a huge variety of products to help with adult bedwetting, including disposable diapers, bedwetting alarms, and vinyl mats. These products may be convenient at first, but can negatively impact the environment over the long term. Instead, a reusable, washable, and absorbent bedwetting mat might be just the solution. These mats stay flat on the bed, have a soft, terry-cloth finish, and unlike vinyl mats, aren’t noisy or uncomfortable. You can wash and reuse them again and again, and they maintain their absorbency over time.
Food & Diet
Some food and drinks, unfortunately, may irritate the bladder and contribute to bedwetting in adults. This includes diuretics like soft drinks, alcohol, and caffeine. Some acidic foods, like grapefruits and oranges, tomatoes, and fruit juices may also contribute to bladder irritation. You’ll also want to avoid spicy foods.
Don't be discouraged!
Remember that adult bedwetting is something that happens as people age, whether it’s caused by medical conditions, genetics, or lifestyle. Talk to your doctor to get to the root cause and the best solutions for your care long term. In the meantime, make life more comfortable for you or your loved one by removing diuretics from the diet, managing stress whenever possible, and using high-quality products that were specifically designed to help manage bedwetting. And remember, this isn’t anything to be embarrassed about.