New research suggests that bedwetting isn’t always the cause of bladder problems and that constipation is often the culprit.

Researchers of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center warned that if constipation is the reason behind a person’s bedwetting and it isn’t diagnosed then children and their parents “must endure an unnecessarily long, costly and difficult quest to cure nighttime wetting.”

"Having too much stool in the rectum reduces bladder capacity," said lead author Steve J. Hodges, M.D., assistant professor of urology at Wake Forest Baptist, in the study published in Urology.

The researchers found that 30 children and adolescents who sought treatment for bedwetting all had large amounts of stool in their rectums, despite the majority having normal bowel habits, the authors explained.

After laxative therapy treatment, 25 of the children, 83 percent, were cured of bedwetting within three months.

"Our study showed that a large percentage of these children were cured of nighttime wetting after laxative therapy. Parents try all sorts of things to treat bedwetting from alarms to restricting liquids. In many children, the reason they don't work is that constipation is the problem."

Hodges urges parents that the link between constipation and bedwetting is of great importance.

“The importance of diagnosing this condition cannot be overstated," Hodges said.

"When it is missed, children may be subjected to unnecessary surgery and the side effects of medications. We challenge physicians considering medications or surgery as a treatment for bedwetting to obtain an X-ray or ultrasound first."

The International Children's Continence Society recommends asking children and their parents if the child's bowel movements occur irregularly, less often than every other day and if the stool consistency is hard, Hodges explained.

"These questions focus on functional constipation and cannot help identify children with rectums that are enlarged and interfering with bladder capacity," said Hodges.

"The kind of constipation associated with bedwetting occurs when children put off going to the bathroom. This causes stool to back up and their bowels to never be fully emptied. We believe that treating this condition can cure bedwetting."