If you look carefully at the stream of urine as it leaves the penis you will notice that it comes out as a spiral. This is because of the structure of the urethra (the tube inside the penis that the urine passes through). The urethra is slightly flattened horizontally, but its opening at the end of the penis (the meatus) is a vertical ellipse shape. This gives the urine a twist as it emerges, and the twist keeps the urine in a single stream.
Obstructed flow. Anything that distorts the way the urine flows will affect the way the stream comes out of the penis. It is quite common to experience occasional deviation or spraying. For example, if there is a little stickiness at the meatus, the stream can come out in two streams or as a spray. This is nothing to worry about if it happens only infrequently.
Also, problems inside the urethra, such as an abnormal narrowing (stricture) or scar, can distort the flow and reduce its force. And if you have weak bladder muscle, you may have to strain to pass urine, which can cause spraying.
Opening in the wrong place
Normally, the opening of the urethra is at the end of the penis, in the middle of its head (glans). About 1 in every 300 males is born with the opening (the meatus) on the underside, and the middle of the glans just has a blind dimple. This is called hypospadias. It tends to run in families; if one child has hypospadias, his brothers have a 1 in 20 chance of also having it.
In 65% of men with hypospadias, the opening is on the underside of the head of the penis, near where it joins the shaft, but it can be anywhere along the underside of the shaft or even at the root of the penis near the testicles. If the opening is on the shaft, the end of the penis may bend when it is erect; this does not occur if the opening is near the head. The foreskin is often abnormal as well; part of it is missing on the underside of the penis, so it looks like a hood.
Effects of hypospadias. Hypospadias does not make you incontinent because the urine flow is controlled by the neck of the bladder, which is higher up inside the body. However, it can make it difficult to direct the stream of urine accurately, and some men with this condition choose to sit down when they pass urine.
Treatment of hypospadias. Severe hypospadias, where the opening is on the shaft or near the testicles, will have been noticed at birth, and will have been put right by an operation at the age of 12–18 months. However, the scarring that occurs as the wound heals may mean that the opening (meatus) does not have the desired vertical ellipse shape. As a result, some spraying of urine may occur.
Babies with slight hypospadias, where the opening is on the head of the penis, not far from the dimple, do not always have an operation.
If you have hypospadias that was not operated on, but which bothers you because of the appearance of the foreskin or because you cannot control the direction of the urine stream, ask your family doctor to refer you to a urological surgeon who will be able to give you more information and discuss the options. Seeing a surgeon does not commit you to having an operation.
Don't be shy
If you are having any problems iwth spraying of urine or a wonky stream, overcome your embarrassment and visit your doctor. Your doctor will be able to examine you and refer you to a urologist if necessary.
Written by: Dr Margaret Stearn Edited by: Dr Margaret Stearn Last updated:
Monday, March 20th 2017
Do you have to sit down to urinate, or find it difficult to pee in a straight line? In part 3 of Dr Phil Hammond's penis trilogy, he discusses what happens when your peehole is in the wrong place and what you can do about it. Click on the video below to find out more.
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