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Bedwetting, bowel problems seen in children with ADHD

Children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may also tend to struggle with bedwetting and other bowel and urinary tract problems, a UC Irvine College of Medicine study has found.

Potty training

The study, believed to be the first to investigate urinary and bowel problems in children with ADHD, was presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Boston. The researchers also introduced a biofeedback technique that appears to be successful at reversing some of these problems in children.

Dr. Barry Duel, assistant professor of urology and a specialist in childhood urological diseases at UCI Medical Center’s University Children’s Hospital, and his colleagues found that children with ADHD scored three times higher than non-ADHD children on a questionnaire that surveyed the delicate issues of pre-adolescent bedwetting, improper bowel control and other problems.

About 3 to 5 percent of all children in the United States have some degree of ADHD. Previous studies have suggested that about 30 percent of children with ADHD suffer from bedwetting.

“Health care workers always have suspected that children with ADHD might have higher rates of bedwetting, constipation and similar problems, but no study ever specifically addressed the question,” Duel said. “This study will help caregivers identify these problems and find ways to correct them. We believe that these corrective steps also will help children with ADHD better adjust to already difficult social challenges.”

Duel and his colleagues found that 28 children with ADHD were between two and three times more likely to answer “yes” to nine questions on a survey of urination and bowel movement habits than were 23 children who did not have ADHD. The researchers saw no differences between boys and girls. The children’s ages averaged about 10 years old.

The researchers also found that a computerized feedback technique reduced bedwetting and other problems significantly in a group of about 50 children with an average age of 8 years who did not have ADHD. Incontinence fell from 100 percent of children to 40 percent, and urinary tract infections fell from nearly 100 percent to 43 percent of children studied after they completed biofeedback training, for example.

“Although we didn’t test children with ADHD on the biofeedback technique, the method may offer physicians a solution for any children suffering from these problems,” Duel said. “More study will be necessary to determine what physiological and behavioral changes in ADHD contribute to these issues, but we believe this research will result in a better treatment for children with ADHD.” Duel’s team has been studying the uses of biofeedback in correcting bowel and urinary habits in children for many years and continues to focus on better diagnosis and treatment for related urologic disorders in children.

Study published in October 2002

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