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Basic anatomy: the urinary system

How well do you know your own body? This month, to help you understand your body and the problems you many encounter, we are looking at the urinary system.

The male and female urinary systems

Image ©


  • The urinary tract is responsible for the production, storage and passing of urine. It includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra.
  • The two kidneys lie at the back of the abdomen. They produce urine by ‘filtering’ unwanted substances from the blood. The urine produced passes out of the kidneys, down both ureters and into the bladder, where it is stored.
  • The bladder fills with urine over 3–4 hours. As it fills, you become increasingly aware of the need to pass urine. During urination, urine passes from the bladder down the urethra to the outside. This involves simultaneous relaxation of the muscles of the urethra and contraction of the muscle of the bladder.


The male urinary system

Image ©


  • In men, the urinary and genital tracts overlap. Semen is made in the testes (testicles) and passed up two tubes (called the vas deferens) to be stored in the seminal vesicles behind the prostate. At ejaculation, the bladder neck closes and semen passes down the urethra and out through the penis.
  • The prostate is a small gland just below the bladder that fits around the urethra rather like a collar. The prostate produces a fluid that forms part of the semen.
  • In men over 40, the prostate often enlarges gradually and presses on the urethra causing obstruction. This can make it difficult to pass urine and you may be unable to empty your bladder completely. You may also feel the need to pass urine more often and more urgently.


The female urinary system

Image ©


  • Women are more likely to suffer from urinary tract infections (UTIs) than men because the female urethra is much shorter. Emptying your bladder shortly after sex may help to avoid UTIs.
  • After childbirth, many women leak small amounts of urine when they cough or sneeze. This is called 'stress incontinence' and occurs when the pelvic floor muscles have been weakened by the passage of the baby down the birth canal. Performing pelvic floor exercises may help strengthen the muscles and stop urine leaking out.
  • The flow of urine may be obstructed if the urethra is narrowed by scar tissue or the muscles of the urethra fail to relax. However, this is uncommon.

For more pictures of the urinary system, visit It is free to sign up and you will have access to hundreds of high-quality images that you can print or download. Take one with you to your next doctor’s appointment to help you explain your problems.

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Last updated: Thursday, October 15th 2015


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Posted by Optional on 17/12/2015 at 09:21

very informative


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