Everything You Should Know About the Urinary System

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Everything You Need to Know About the Urinary System

Your body is composed of hundreds of systems working together to keep you healthy and strong. One of these systems, the urinary system, operates like a plumbing system. Your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and other components work together to produce, store, and eliminate urine from your body.1 It’s a pretty straightforward process, but is essential for your body’s maintenance of day-to-day life. In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about the urinary system and its associated diseases.

 

What is the Urinary System?

As we mentioned, the urinary system is comprised of a number of organs and muscles that work to produce, store, and eliminate urine. After your body absorbs the nutrients from food and liquids, waste products are all that remain. One of which is urea. Urea is the liquid waste that is produced when foods with proteins are broken down.2 When combined with water and other minerals, this becomes urine—one of your body’s primary waste products.

Your urinary system works to filter waste while in constant communication with other organs to help maintain a balance of chemicals and water in your body.1 The entire process starts at the kidneys, and works its way through the ureters, bladder, and urethra.

To get a better understanding of how things work, it helps to look at each part of the urinary system and their corresponding roles.

 

Kidneys

You’re born with two kidneys. They’re bean-shaped organs each roughly the size of a closed fist.3 Your kidneys are located just below either side of your rib cage and are constantly working day and night. Kidneys remove urea from the blood through a microscopic filtering system of nephrons.4 They also filter excess ions, chemicals, and other metabolic waste.5 Regardless of what you’re doing, your kidneys will filter about 120 to 150 quarts of blood each and every day.3

 

Ureters

Once urine is filtered, ureters carry it down from the kidneys and into the bladder.2 Each kidney has a ureter that connects to the bladder, where small amounts of urine are emptied almost constantly. Movement is important to avoid infection in the ureters, which is one reason why you should avoid holding your urine for too long. 

 

Bladder

Once urine is emptied into the bladder, it sits until you feel an urge to urinate. Your bladder is located in your lower abdomen and has an impressive ability to contract and expand to match urine output. When it’s time to empty your bladder, voluntarily control of the muscles allows you to urinate. The frequency of urination depends on hydration levels, kidney production, and bladder size. On average, a normal bladder can hold about 1.5 to 2 cups of urine for 2 to 5 hours.2

Sphincter Muscles

To avoid bladder leakage, your sphincter muscles stay contracted. They’re circular and have the ability to close very tightly, almost like putting a rubber band around the opening of your bladder.2 If you have incontinence problems, you are likely experiencing weakened sphincter muscles.

Nerves in the Bladder

When you finally feel that urge to urinate, your nerves in the bladder are activated. These are what give you the sense of alert, signaling it’s time to find a restroom.

Urethra

After getting the alert that it’s time to urinate, your urine will travel down the urethra and out of your body. Your body works efficiently throughout all of these steps to produce normal urination, but sometimes things go wrong. If you experience any difficulty urinating, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your urologist.

The Importance of the Urinary System

The urinary system allows your body to successfully filter out your blood, creates urine as a waste product, then stores and excretes it. But that’s not all it does. The urinary tract system is an integral part of your body’s overall maintenance as it works to maintain homeostasis and produce necessary hormones.

Maintains Homeostasis

Your kidneys work hard to control your body’s internal conditions. They monitor the excretion of substances like ions, pH levels, osmolarity, and blood pressure. Ions, such as potassium, sodium, calcium, etc., need to have a precise concentration level in your body to ensure that all of your systems are working properly.5 The pH level of your body, in terms of hydrogen ions, keeps your body regulated. Osmolarity helps control the amount of water filtered out of the blood so that the cells in your body can grow, function, and maintain an electrolyte balance.5 Finally, your kidneys work to maintain a stable blood pressure throughout the day as your food and water intake fluctuate.

Produces Hormones

Your kidneys produce hormones that play an important role in systems outside of the urinary tract.5 Your kidneys produce calcitriol, an active form of vitamin D, erythropoietin, which stimulates the production of red blood cells, and rennin, which helps control blood pressure, blood volume, and hydration.5 

Urinary System Diseases

There are a lot of factors that cause problems in your urinary system—most of them are associated with aging. Your systems become less efficient, muscles tend to weaken, and your body is more susceptible to infection. To make sure that you maintain a healthy urinary system, keep an eye out for any signs or symptoms of problems. Some signs and symptoms of urinary system problems include:

  • Painful urination
  • Frequent or urgent need to urinate
  • Blood in your urine – urine appears pinkish or red
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Poor bladder control
  • Pain in your lower back, pelvis, or sides
  • Fallen bladder protrusion
  • Overactive bladder
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Hernia
  • A lump in your testicle
  • Trouble getting or maintaining an erection
  • A decreased sexual desire (males)

Normal, healthy urine is a pale or clear yellow color.2 If you experience dark yellow urine that lightens when you drink water, you’re probably dehydrated. If you experience a dark, brownish color, you should see a urologist as it could indicate signs of liver problems or very severe dehydration.2

 

How Are Diseases Detected?

If you notice any signs or symptoms of urinary problems, contact a urologist today. They will start with a urinalysis to study the chemical makeup of your urine and look for any signs of infection. There are also urodynamic tests available that will help your urologist better understand how your bladder is working.4  

Common Disorders and Conditions

Throughout your life, you will likely experience at least one type of urinary system disorder. They’re more common than you’d think and have a variety of successful treatments or medications. Some of the most common types of urinary system disorders include: 

Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)

Urinary tract infections are one of the most common types of urinary system conditions. Women get them more frequently due to anatomical reasons, but men can be affected by UTIs too. If you experience symptoms of a UTI, it’s important to get it diagnosed and treated so the infection doesn’t spread into your kidneys.

Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence occurs when you involuntarily release urine. While it can be embarrassing, there are treatment options to help mitigate accidents.

Urinary Retention 

If you have difficulty or trouble emptying your bladder, you may be experiencing urinary retention.4 There are a number of reasons this could occur, so it’s important to schedule a visit with your urologist to get to the underlying cause. 

Kidney Stones

Kidney or ureteral stones occur when calcium deposits build up in your kidneys. These deposits become small stones that need to travel through your urinary system and out the urethra. Because of this, kidney stones are often very painful. If the kidney stones are too big, your urologist may recommend using a procedure to help break them down before you try to pass them.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)

This only affects men as it involves the prostate gland. Benign prostatic hyperplasia is another term for an enlarged prostate, which often directly affects how the urinary system functions. The increased size of the prostate causes a blockage of the urethra, which makes urination more difficult. There are a number of treatment options available to men experiencing BPH.

Prostatitis

 

Prostatitis is the inflammation of the prostate gland, but is different from BPH.4 The symptoms usually include lower back pain and trouble urinating and are sometimes caused by a bacterial infection. For those cases of prostatitis not caused by infection, different treatment plans will need to be carried out.  

Conclusion

Your urinary system is an impressive machine. It works in conjunction with your body 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you think you’re experiencing any problems with your urinary system, call your urologist immediately. You need a proper diagnosis to ensure that you’re treating the underlying cause. If you need any urological supplies or additional educational resources, visit our educational support page or our product selection guide. Byram Healthcare is proud to offer full-service urological care and we have all the high quality urological supplies that you need. When you do need to order any urological supplies, all of your orders can be discreetly delivered to your home, at any time of the day. If you have any urological questions or need personalized, confidential services, our teams of knowledgeable urological customer service specialists are here to help. 

 

Sources:

1https://www.livescience.com/27012-urinary-system.html

2https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=anatomy-of-the-urinary-system-85-P01468

3https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/urinary-tract-how-it-works

4https://www.kidneyurology.org/Library/Urologic_Health.php/Urniary_system_and_how_works.php

5https://www.innerbody.com/image/urinov.html

 

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