P R E S S   R E L E A S E

Chinese Version

21 December 2001

Bedwetting in Adults in Hong Kong: Fact & Fiction

        Although it is now well known that bed-wetting is a very common problem in childhood, with about 10% of local children by age 7 being frequent bed-wetters, until recently nobody knew whether the problem also occurred in Hong Kong adults.

        Researchers from the Division of Paediatric Surgery at the Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong explored this question by surveying over 8,500 adults aged between 16 - 40 years over the telephone.  Nearly 3% of all men and 2% of women admitted to having bed-wetting whilst asleep.  This amounts to over 60,000 adults in Hong Kong in that age range being affected by this embarrassing problem.  Of these, over half of the affected adults were wet for 3 or more nights a week, and one quarter of the sufferers experienced bed-wetting every night.

        The study also compared people who have night bladder problems with the adults who didn’t and found that sufferers were significantly more likely to be depressed and have a lower self-esteem.  Up to 40% of adults with bed-wetting felt that the problem affected their employment performance and social and family interactions.  In addition, significantly less of the affected individuals achieved tertiary education as compared to normal controls.  People in the affected group also reported more difficulty with falling asleep and woke up more often during the night or very early in the morning.  Despite all the negative effects of this disorder it seems that very few people knew how to manage the problem, and less than half of the affected individuals have tried some form of therapy or seeked medical assistance.

        Through ongoing medical research both the pathophysiology and therapeutic approach for bed-wetting has become far better understood over the past few years.  It is currently believed that 3 main factors interact to decide whether a person can be dry during the night.  Firstly the bladder must have the ability to rest during the night and store all the urine made by the kidneys during sleep.  Secondly the brain needs to be able to respond to messages to wake when the bladder is near its limit of storage.  Thirdly the amount of urine produced by the kidneys should not exceed the holding capacity of the bladder.  Detailed assessment of each affected individual, considering the above factors, has allowed us to accurately determine which specific treatment or combination of treatments would be mostly effective to improve the problem, thereby achieving a complete cure in the great majority (over 90%) of patients.

        Since these new approaches to helping bed-wetters are relatively recent, it is likely that sufferers who have sought medical help 3-4 years ago or longer may not have the access to, or even the knowledge of, recent therapies.  In view of this the Faculty of Medicine, CUHK, has established the Hong Kong Enuresis Research and Information Centre (HKERIC).  The aims of the centre are to promote public understanding of bed-wetting and to help health professionals improve their assessment and treatment skills.  The services provided by HKERIC include: telephone hotline, fax and letter advice service, homepage and e-mail with Q & A sections for professional advice, and regular seminars for public and health professionals.