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Bells Beat Pills to Stop Bed-Wetting

Researchers Say Alarm Devices Are More Effective for a Permanent Cure

Teaching the Bladder

The causes of the condition aren't clear. Delayed or immature development of the bladder may be one factor.

Although most children eventually grow out of bed-wetting without treatment, many suffer for years unnecessarily, Glazener says.

"For some families it is no big deal, but it can potentially be very disruptive to a household and certainly distressing to the child," she says. "When things get to this point, it is time to seek treatment."

Children who are bed wetters are at an increased risk for emotional and physical abuse, says the report.

In some form or another, alarms have been used to stop bed-wetting for almost 70 years. These days the devices are fairly sophisticated and either vibrate, ring, or light up when a special mattress pad senses the first signs of moisture.

"The idea is to wake the child before they have emptied their bladder so they will have to get up and go to the bathroom to finish," Glazener says.

Over time the body becomes conditioned to wake up when the bladder is full.

Half Were Cured

Glazener and colleagues analyzed 55 trials comparing the effectiveness of bed-wetting alarms to treatment with desmopressen and several other therapies that have been less well studied.

Of the 2,345 children enrolled in the studies, two-thirds of those used an alarm for two weeks straight. About half of the children began bed-wetting again after stopping the alarm treatment.

Studies involving other therapies, such as behavior modification and alternative treatments like hypnosis and acupuncture, were generally of poor quality, the researchers noted. As a result, it was not possible to evaluate their effectiveness.

Combining Alarm and Medication

Pediatric psychologist Michael Mellon, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., tells WebMD that combining the alarm and medication seems to work best for children who often wet the bed several times during the night.

Mellon calls drug therapy a "management option" rather than a cure for bed-wetting. He says he is disturbed that it is the only treatment that is often recommended by pediatricians and family doctors.

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