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HEALTH ANSWERS

Is it normal for adults to occasionally wet the bed?

Although bed-wetting is fairly common in children, who usually grow out of it, it's much less common in adults. That said, doctors from the Mayo Clinic estimated in a paper published nine years ago that as many as 1.5 to 3 percent of the adult population had ''persistent nocturnal enuresis," or chronic nighttime bed-wetting.

An adult who wets the bed only occasionally and has no other voiding problems is unlikely to have anything seriously wrong with his or her urinary tract, said Dr. Dianne Sacco, a urologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. Occasional bed-wetting often occurs at a time of ''excessive emotional stress," she added. If the problem becomes persistent or the person has voiding problems during the day, too, it's wise to see a doctor.

The potential causes of bed-wetting, in kids and adults, are many. Some researchers think it's a psychological problem. Others note that bed-wetting runs in families, suggesting a genetic trigger. Still others believe it's caused by sleeping too deeply, especially in children, or by reduced bladder capacity, urinary tract infections, neurological abnormalities (in which nerves to the bladder fire too often), or a decrease in the secretion of so-called anti-diuretic hormone, which regulates the amount of urine made. In older adults, other conditions may also trigger bed-wetting, including congestive heart failure and sleep apnea.

If you have a bed-wetting problem, try training yourself to wake up with a bed-wetting alarm, available on the Internet. You can also try drugs such as Tofranil, DDAVP or Ditropan, Detrol, Vesicare, Sanctura, or Enablex. But bed-wetting may recur if the drugs are stopped.

JUDY FOREMAN

E-mail health questions to foreman@globe.com.

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