A provider holding the urinary system

Function, Location and Purpose

The urinary system is made up of the kidneys, bladder, and urethra.

The urethra is a tube-like structure in the pelvis that allows urine to flow out of the bladder and leave the body. It can range in length from about two inches in women and about eight inches in men.

Diseases and Treatments

Men often have a greater risk of issues with the urethra. Some conditions and diseases include:

  • Strictures/Stenosis: Scar tissue or narrowing that develops in the urethra and causes difficulty with urination
    • Treatment: Minimally-invasive options are available including dilation/stretching, incision, or a newer technique – the medicated Optilume® device. Surgical reconstruction is an alternative that sometimes may include using tissue from other sites like the inside of the mouth or rectum, or redirection of the urinary system to another location.
  • Stress urinary incontinence: Loss of control of urine due to weakened sphincter control
    • Treatment: Kegel exercises are a common technique that aims to improve sphincter strength. Pelvic floor physical therapy can be a more effective, non-invasive option for fortifying urinary control. Surgical options such as urethral slings and artificial urinary sphincters are also available to help patients who still face persistent challenges to regain their ability to maintain continence.
  • Urethritis: An inflammatory process which can be commonly caused by infection
    • Treatment: Anti-inflammatory medications along with management of the underlying cause such as treatment of bacterial infection with antibiotics.
  • Cancer: Uncontrolled growth of cells that can spread to other parts of the body
    • Treatment: Multidisciplinary teams offer medical management options involving chemotherapy or radiation which can sometimes be paired with surgical options. Commonly, reconstruction may be necessary to help reshape the urinary tract to allow for restoration of proper function but with an important consideration of appearance.

It is important to keep healthy by seeking medical care early if issues begin to develop. Using safe sex practices to avoid STIs and being mindful of activities that may risk straddle injuries are some ways to take preventative steps and ensuring overall wellness.

Surgery and medical management of cancer involving the kidneys, bladder, urethra, prostate or testicles are available at UofL Health – Brown Cancer Center with UofL Physicians – Urology as part of a multidisciplinary team ready to treat you.

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Article by: Uzoma Anele, M.D.

Uzoma Anele, M.D., is a urologist with UofL Health that specializes in urology, oncology, cancer care and genitourinary cancer. His areas of interest also include male genitourinary reconstruction and prosthetics, male urinary incontinence, robotic surgery, urethral stricture disease and urinary fistulas. Dr. Anele earned his medical degree at the University of Maryland after completing his undergrad career at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. He went on to complete an internship in General Surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he also completed his urology residency. Dr. Anele went on to complete two fellowships in genitourinary reconstructive surgery and prosthetic surgery fellowship at Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute, Cleveland Clinic Foundation and at James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in NIH-funded urologic research. At the University of Louisville, he is an assistant professor in the Department of Urology and the director of Genitourinary Reconstructive Surgery. "I strive to ensure that patients are well-informed in making individualized medical decisions. I believe in utilizing the latest technologies and techniques to promote the best outcomes and patient satisfaction."

All posts by Uzoma Anele, M.D.
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