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.