Medical Surgical Urinary retention vs Incontinence #3


A 52-year-old woman comes to the clinic for a yearly check-up. During the health history interview, the client states, “I must be getting old since I lose my urine when I laugh or sneeze.” The nurse explains that the client is experiencing which type of incontinence?


  1. Urge incontinence.
    • Rationale:

      This answer is not correct because urge incontinence is defined as a sudden, intense urge to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine. This type of urinary incontinence may be caused by a minor condition (e.g., infection) or a more-severe condition (e.g., neurologic disorder, diabetes mellitus).

  2. Reflex incontinence.
    • Rationale:

      This answer is not correct because reflex incontinence occurs when the client’s bladder muscle contracts and urine leaks in large amounts without any warning or urge. This type of urinary incontinence can happen as a result of damage to the nerves that normally warn the brain that the bladder is filling.

  3. Stress incontinence.
    • Rationale:

      This answer is correct because stress incontinence causes the client to experience urine leakage as a result of pressure on the bladder. The bladder stress may be caused by coughing, exercising, laughing, lifting heavy objects, or sneezing.

  4. Functional incontinence.
    • Rationale:

      This answer is not correct because functional incontinence is defined as a physical or mental impairment that keeps the client from making it to the toilet in time for urination. For example, a client who is diagnosed with severe arthritis may not be able to unbutton the pants quickly enough thus resulting in urinary incontinence.


Urinary incontinence is defined as the involuntary passage of urine from the bladder due to loss of voluntary control over the urinary sphincters. Stress incontinence happens when pressure is placed on the bladder by movement or activity such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, or heavy lifting.


Learning Outcomes

The most common type of urinary incontinence for female clients is stress incontinence. Activities including coughing, laughing, moving, and sneezing may cause greater abdominal pressure on the bladder resulting in urine leakage. Stress incontinence can also be the result of weakened pelvic floor muscles or weak sphincter muscle at the neck of the bladder. The other types of incontinence do not fit the description in the question.

Test Taking Tip

Consider the definition for each option to answer this question correctly regarding urinary incontinence.

Video Rationale