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Enuresis and sickle cell disease


Enuresis is defined as urinating when you do not intend to go. Enuresis is often called bed-wetting when it occurs at night. Enuresis is a common problem for children and teens with sickle cell disease. It happens because they are unable to concentrate their urine well, and they are encouraged to drink a lot of fluids to prevent pain crises. Bed-wetting is a symptom of sickle cell disease; it cannot be helped. Punishment will not correct this condition.

What are the symptoms of enuresis in a child or teen with sickle cell disease?

  • Urinating more often during the day
  • Bed-wetting at night

What problems may result?

  • Social anxiety (embarrassed) about wetting the bed
  • Caregivers who are unhappy about having to wash bedding so often

What is the treatment for bed-wetting in a child or teen with sickle cell disease?

The best treatment for bed-wetting in people with sickle cell disease is not known. Treatments that work in the general population might not work well in those with sickle cell disease. Below are some general tips that might help, but they do not work all the time.

  • Do not allow your child to drink fluids 2 hours before bedtime.
  • Set an alarm and get your child up to go to the bathroom during the night.
  • Discuss using an enuresis alarm with a member of your child’s medical team.
  • Avoid giving your child drinks that contain caffeine (sodas, tea, coffee).
  • Use washable, reusable bed pads for easier cleaning.

If the problem continues after a few weeks of following the ideas above every day, discuss the problem with your child’s doctor. In some cases it may be useful to speak with a psychologist or counselor.

Do not take any medicine for bed-wetting without discussing it with your St. Jude Hematology team first. 

Does everyone with sickle cell disease have enuresis?

Enuresis is a common problem that may affect 30–70 percent of children or teens with sickle cell disease. It occurs more often in sickle cell patients than in the general population. Normally, bed-wetting goes away as the patient ages, but “nocturia” (getting up during the night to go to the bathroom) can persist into adulthood. It is not uncommon for patients with sickle cell disease to have enuresis well into their teenage years.


If you have questions or want more information about enuresis, feel free to discuss this problem with your child’s Hematology team. 


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

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