Bladder Control Disorders in Children

Dysfunctional voiding (difficulties with urination) and enuresis (incontinence or inability to control urine) are common conditions among children. Incontinence, or involuntary urine leakage, can occur after successful toilet training. It can happen during the day or at night (bedwetting).

Bladder control problems are common in children of any age. Whatever the type or cause of bladder control disorders, these problems can be embarrassing for children. Bladder control problems can lower confidence and self-esteem – especially during school years and early social development.

Early evaluation and treatment can help children of any age and their families find answers and positive steps forward.

Causes of Incontinence and Bladder Control Problems

Penn State Health pediatric urologists specialize in diagnosing and treating dysfunctional voiding, enuresis and many other types of bladder control conditions. These can have varied causes, such as:

  • Behavioral disorders and psychological concerns, such as stress or anxiety
  • Birth defects
  • Blockages, including a benign or malignant mass
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Genetic (inherited) disorders
  • Kidney (renal) disorders
  • Neurogenic bladder (abnormal nerve signals to bladder)
  • Neurological conditions such as MS, Parkinson’s, spina bifida and hydrocephalus (fluid buildup in brain)
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Stroke
  • Structural defects in urinary tract or organs
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

The symptoms of dysfunctional voiding, enuresis and other incontinence or bladder control problems vary. They can be treated with simple changes in daily routines.

Signs of incontinence, enuresis or an overactive bladder may include:

  • Bedwetting
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Inability to fully empty the bladder
  • Infrequent urination
  • Involuntary urine leakage
  • Squirming, leg-crossing or squatting to avoid leakage
  • UTI symptoms, such as pain, burning and cloudy or bloody urine

Your child’s pediatrician or health practitioner will evaluate any related symptoms and concerns. Evaluation may include a referral to a pediatric urology specialist at Penn State Health for testing, diagnosis and treatment recommendations. You can also contact us to schedule an evaluation with a Penn State Health urologist.

Treating Bladder Conditions in Children

Diagnostic tests vary with the symptoms, type and cause of conditions. Your doctor may ask you to keep a journal that includes details about diet, fluid intake and bathroom habits, as well as the time and nature of symptoms and related problems, such as constipation.

Other steps may include:

  • Health history, including family history of related conditions
  • Imaging tests such as ultrasound or MRI
  • Physical exam
  • Testing to rule out other potential causes
  • Urine sample, urine culture and urinalysis
  • Urodynamic testing – series of tests that show how bladder, urethra (urinary tube) and related muscles are working
  • Voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG) – X-ray of bladder and urethra to evaluate urine flow
  • Minimally invasive procedures to evaluate or treat blockages

Your doctor will evaluate test results and discuss treatment options. This process sometimes involves consultation with other specialists at Penn State Health. Your doctor will discuss appropriate treatment, which can range from behavioral and routine adjustments to medication and minimally invasive or surgical procedures.

Why Choose Penn State Health for Pediatric Urology Care

Our pediatric urology team treats conditions that involve the urinary tract, bladder, kidneys and sex organs (genitalia). We use the latest technology and treatments to help your child. Our physicians and teams offer high-level care across specialties with sensitivity to the unique conditions and concerns of children.

Pediatric Expertise Across Specialties

The pediatric surgeons at Penn State Health have multispecialty training and experience. Doctors are skilled in performing the most intricate and complex procedures in infants, children and adolescents. Areas of expertise include:

  • Dedicated cross-specialty team of caring pediatric experts before, during and after surgery or other treatments and procedures
  • Minimally invasive surgery (sophisticated instruments and surgical procedures with smaller incisions)
  • Neonatal surgery (premature babies and newborns)
  • Pediatric oncology (cancer care)
  • Pediatric surgical innovation (software and device development)
  • Prenatal diagnosis and treatment (for problems with the baby’s development during pregnancy)

Penn State Health Children’s Hospital: Leading the Way

At Penn State Health, children are cared for by teams that are nationally known for pediatric excellence across medical specialties and subspecialties. Penn State Health Children’s Hospital is:

  • Recognized by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) for exceptional surgical care. Our hospital is one of eight in the nation and the only Level 1 Children’s Surgery Center in Pennsylvania as part of the ACS Children’s Surgery Verification Program.
  • Routinely ranked among the best children’s hospitals in the nation because of our focus on patient care, safety and research. U.S. News & World Report has recognized Penn State Children’s Hospital specialties with top rankings.

Our Research and Clinical Trials Drive Better Care

The pediatric specialists at Penn State Health are leaders in clinical science research. We welcome interested volunteers to consider participating in clinical trials. These studies help our scientists:

  • Improve diagnostic techniques
  • Develop better treatments
  • Collaborate with other researchers to advance care

Learn more about Penn State Health clinical trials.

Support Groups

Support groups provide children and their families an opportunity to connect with others in similar situations. Learn more about the support groups offered at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital.

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