Is urine leakage a sign of a serious problem? 

Talk to your doctor and learn what you can do.


Dear doctor,

I’m in my late 60s and generally feel great. But lately I pee a little bit when I laugh or cough. It’s so embarrassing — and not funny at all. But other than being humiliated, can this be a sign of a more serious problem?


Dear Amy,

The term for leaking urine is called urinary incontinence or the loss of bladder control. Some people, like you, leak urine when they cough or sneeze. Others have a sudden and strong urge to pee and don’t get to a toilet in time.


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It’s fairly common, but you shouldn’t have to accept leakage as a normal part of aging. If it starts to get in the way of your daily life, get help. Ask your doctor about it during your Annual Wellness Visit. Or book a visit with your doctor to learn what can be done.

Leaking urine isn't a disease. It's a symptom. It can be caused by everyday habits or medical problems. Your doctor can help figure out what's causing the problem.

You might feel uncomfortable talking about this topic with your doctor. But don’t worry; we’ve heard it all. And, it might turn out to be just a minor problem.

Simple lifestyle changes or medical care can often help you feel better and stop leaks.


Your doctor may suggest ways to "train" your bladder. You could do exercises to strengthen your pelvic muscles. They’re called Kegel exercises. Another way is to follow a schedule for when you drink fluids and use the bathroom.

For some women, medicines may help. For others, surgery might be the answer. Both have side effects, so you'll want to talk to your doctor about your choices. What's best for you depends on the type of problem and how bad it is.

Sometimes leakage means you may have a serious medical problem. For example, diabetes or kidney problems. Your primary care doctor may also refer you to a urologist. This is a specialist who has more training in caring for urinary problems.


No matter what, start by talking to your doctor at your Annual Wellness Visit or at a separate appointment.

In good health,

Joshua Jacobs, MD, FAAFP
National Medical Director, Provider Intelligence
Clinical Performance, Optum Care


Will Medicare cover an Annual Wellness Visit?


Yes, but note two details:

  • Medicare sets the price of the Annual Wellness Visit. This is the amount that Medicare will pay your doctor for it.
  • You need to have your Annual Wellness Visit with a doctor or other provider who accepts Medicare. 

You pay nothing for the Annual Wellness Visit. (You have no deductible or coinsurance.)



The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.