Organs of the Urinary System and Their Functions

The urinary system is one of the organ systems of the body. The organs of the urinary system work to help the body get rid of wastes and excess water in the form of urine. Other urinary system organs help transport urine or store urine and release it when it is time.

The organs of the urinary system include the two kidneys, two ureters, a urinary bladder and the urethra. Illustration of the urinary tract

The Kidneys

The adult kidneys are normally located in the middle of the back one on each side of the spine and are partially protected by the lower ribs. Each kidney is kidney bean in shape and is almost the same size of a person’s clenched fist.

Each kidney has about 1 million nephrons, which are tiny filters in the kidney. These tiny filtering units help clean the blood of wastes and remove excess water. Waste products and excess water constitutes the urine.

The kidneys also help regulate blood pressure, help in making vitamin D and produce a certain hormone—called erythropoietin—that stimulates red blood cell formation.
Conditions Affecting the Kidneys:
The Ureters

Each ureter, about 8 to 10 inches long, connects a kidney to the urinary bladder. Urine formed in the kidney then flows to the tube-like ureter where it carries urine to the bladder. The wall of each ureter has smooth muscles that regularly contract and relax to force urine into the bladder.

Sometimes, the ureter can get infected causing urinary tract infection (UTI).

The Urinary Bladder

The urinary bladder, or simply called bladder, is a hollow muscular organ that sits in the pelvis. It is supported and held in place by ligaments. The ligaments attach to the nearby organs and the pelvic wall.

The bladder stores urine and is emptied during urination. A person’s bladder can comfortably hold up to 2 cups of urine for 2 to 5 hours. Sphincter muscles located at the base of the bladder help keep urine from leaking. Once the process of urination starts, the sphincters relax allowing urine to freely flow to the urethra and out of the body.
Conditions Affecting the Bladder:
The Urethra

The urethra is the last part of the urinary system where urine flows. The length of the urethra is different in men and women. In men, the urethra measures about 6 to 8 inches long. The female urethra, on the other hand, is much shorter with a length of about 1.5 inches. This may be the reason why females are prone to having urinary tract infections (UTI) because of the shorter distance where bacteria or other microorganisms travel going up the urinary tract.

Truly, the organs of the urinary system play a big role in normalizing body functions. Keeping the kidneys healthy is important, as once damage starts it may be difficult to reverse it.

Clinical background provided by the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC) of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

Image Credit: NIDDK Image Library

Page Last Revised: April 25, 2016

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