The Urinary System

Information on the Human Urinary Tract System. Learn More About the Causes and Symptoms if a UTI.

Select a Topic

  1. What is the Urinary System?
  2. Diagnosing Problems with the Urinary System
  3. What Causes Problems with the Urinary System?
  4. Help for Problems with the Urinary System
  5. More Information on the Urinary System

What is the Urinary System?Image of an older man's face

The human urinary system consists of two kidneys, two ureters, a bladder, two sphincter muscles, and a urethra. These organs, tubes, and muscles filter out excess fluids and waste products from the bloodstream, which are then expelled as urine.

The human urinary system removes waste products known as urea from the blood. Proteins found in meat, poultry, and vegetables are broken down in the body into urea, which is then eliminated from the body via the urine.

Diagnosing Problems with the Urinary System

If you are suspected of having an abnormality of the urinary system, your doctor may wish to perform a number of tests in order to determine the presence of indicators in your urine or urinary tract system.

Major Diagnostic Tests for the Urinary System
    • Urinalysis
Urinalysis is a test used to check for abnormal substances such as protein, white blood cells, nitrites, and glucose, as well as other disorders of the urinary tract system like a urinary tract infection or kidney disease.
    • Urodynamic tests
      • Cystoscopy

Urodynamic tests are used to find out how the body stores and releases urine. The aim of urodynamic testing is to measure how effectively the bladder can empty and fill itself up. It is used for patients experiencing painful urination, incontinence, recurrent urinary tract infections, frequent urinate, those who have difficulty starting a urine stream.

A cystourethroscopy involves inserting a scope with lenses and a light source into the urethra to view the inside of the bladder and urinary tract system for abnormalities such as tumors or stones.

    • Renal ultrasound

A renal ultrasound is a non-invasive test that uses high-frequency sound waves which bounce off the kidney, transmitting a picture of it. It is used to detect abnormalities in the kidneys, ureters and bladder, and can also measure the size and shape of the kidney.

    • Renal angiography

This test is also referred to as a renal arteriography. A contrast dye is injected through a catheter into the bloodstream, followed by x-rays of the renal blood vessels. It is able to determine signs of blockage or abnormalities affecting the blood supply to the kidneys.

    • Prostatectomy

Prostatectomy is a surgical procedure which involves a part or entire removal of the prostate.

    • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test

Prostate-specific antigen blood tests are used to determine prostate cancer by measuring a substance called prostate-specific antigen produced by the prostate.

    • Dialysis

This medical procedure is performed to remove wastes and additional fluid from the blood after the kidneys have stopped functioning.

What Causes Problems with the Urinary System?

The human urinary system problem are most commonly associated with:

  • Aging

As you grow older, the functioning of the kidneys may decline. The muscles of the ureters, bladder, and urethra may lose their strength, making you more prone to urinary infections because the bladder muscles often do not tighten enough to empty the bladder completely.

  • Illness and Injury

If you have been ill or injured, the passage of urine can become blocked and may prevent the kidneys from filtering the blood completely. In men, a swollen prostate gland can impede the flow of urine and increase vulnerability to urinary tract problems.

  • Toxicity

The kidneys may be damaged by certain substances such as medications andpoisons.

What disorders of the urinary system should I be worried about?

There are a wide variety of disorders of the urinary system. Some are easy to treat while others may need medical attention.

  • Cystitis

Cystitis is inflammation of the urinary bladder caused by a bacterial infection.

  • Urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control, causing involuntary urination.

  • Urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infection is a bacterial infection that affects any part of the urinary tract.

  • Urethritis

Urethritis is inflammation of the urethra caused by a bacterial infection.

  • Kidney stones

A kidney stone is large amount of calcium salt crystals from urine that may form in the kidneys.

  • Impotence/Erectile Dysfunction

Impotence, or erectile dysfunction, is the inability to achieve an erection, and/or dissatisfaction with the size, rigidity, and/or duration of erections.

  • Prostatitis

While the prostate gland is not actually a part of the urinary system, the two are closely positioned. Prostatitis is an inflamed condition of the prostate gland that may be accompanied by discomfort, pain, frequent or infrequent urination, and sometimes, fever.

  • Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer occurs when there are abnormal, cancerous cells growing in the bladder.

  • Cystocele (Fallen Bladder)

Cystocele is a hernia-like disorder in women that occurs when the wall between the bladder and the vagina weakens, causing the bladder to sag into the vagina.

  • Hematuria (Blood in the urine)

Hematuria is the presence of red blood cells (RBCs) in the urine.

  • Renal failure

Renal failure is the condition in which the kidneys fail to function properly.

Help for Problems with the Urinary System

Treatments vary according to the type and cause of abnormality or condition of the urinary system.

Bacterial infections such as urinary tract infections and cystitis are common problems of the urinary system, and are usually recurring. Antibiotics are frequently prescribed to fight the infection. Kidney stones can be very painful, and treatment may involve a non-surgical procedure called lithotripsy or surgical removal of the stone.

Incontinence is often treated with drugs that help relax the bladder such oxybutynin and tolterodine.

For more serious disorders such as renal failure, treatment may include drugs to address the underlying cause. In more extreme cases, kidney dialysis, surgery and blood transfusions may be necessary. Kidney, prostate and bladder cancer is conventionally treated by removing cancerous tissue and using radiation therapy.

Is there a Drug-Free Approach to Treatment?

Conventional medical treatments for disorders of the urinary system consist of various drug therapies, dialysis, surgery, and radiation therapy. These treatments are often necessary, especially for life-threatening diseases.

More Information on the Urinary System

Some Helpful Hints

There are steps that we can take to maintain a healthy urinary system:

  • Ensure good hygiene habits
  • Drink lots of water – at least eight glasses a day to flush the bladder
  • Eat a calcium-rich diet, such as dairy products
  • Urinate regularly - when you feel the need to, and do not fight the urge
  • Get to know your family’s medical history, especially if there have been cases of kidney disease
  • Control your blood pressure
  • Drink cranberry juice, as it fights bacterial infection
  • Avoid long-term use of painkillers such as aspirin andibuprofen, which can damage the kidneys


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