Dr. Steve J. Hodges, assistant professor of urology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., and lead author of the study, said bed-wetters should be examined for constipation. If it turns out that is the problem, children and their parents might avoid an unnecessarily long, costly and difficult quest to cure nighttime wetting.
The study, published in the journal Urology, found the 30 children and adolescents who sought treatment for bed-wetting all had large amounts of stool in their rectums, despite the majority having normal bowel habits.
After treatment with laxative therapy, 83 percent of the study participants were cured of bed-wetting within three months.
"Our study showed that a large percentage of these children were cured of nighttime wetting after laxative therapy," Hodges said in a statement. "Parents try all sorts of things to treat bed-wetting -- from alarms to restricting liquids. In many children, the reason they don't work is that constipation is the problem."
The importance of diagnosing this condition cannot be overstated, Hodges said.
"When it is missed, children might be subjected to unnecessary surgery and the side effects of medications," Hodges said. "We challenge physicians considering medications or surgery as a treatment for bed-wetting to obtain an X-ray or ultrasound first."