The Urinary Tract - Overview
It normally includes two kidneys, two ureters, the bladder, sphincter muscles, and the urethra. In the male, it also includes the prostate gland.
Your kidneys are vital organs, performing many functions to keep your blood clean and chemically balanced.
Kidney failure or end-stage kidney disease is a major medical problem in the U.S. The two most common causes are high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes. Early recognition and good control of these conditions are the most effective ways to avoid kidney failure. Your primary care doctors can help you manage these conditions with proper diet, regular exercise, and medications.
Your overall kidney function can also be affected by infections, development of tumor or cancer in the urinary tract, obstruction of urine flow, and abnormal bladder function (storage and emptying).
Urinary tract infections are common, responsible for several millions doctor visits annually. Women commonly present with bladder infections, while men present with prostate infections. Antibiotics are usually effective treatment. Complicated or persistent infections, however, likely require a detailed look of the urinary tract for other underlying problems.
Early detection of prostate cancer has been helped by a blood test called PSA, with some early evidence of improving survival. Screening for kidney and bladder cancer has been more challenging, since most people will only have a trace of microscopic blood in the urine early in the disease process. People who smoke tobacco or are exposed to certain chemicals are at greater risk, so they are recommended to undergo a detailed evaluation.
Kidney stones are quite common, totaling over 1 million doctor visits per year. Improving technology has allowed for outpatient treatment with minimal invasiveness, and earlier return to work and regular activity.
Abnormal bladder or voiding function is increasingly recognized as a significant and bothersome problem in men and women. Frequent and urgent urination affect your quality of life (e.g. loss of sleep) as well as your productivity at work. When significant, your kidney function may also be affected over time.
Evaluation and treatment of urinary incontinence have significantly improved. We are now able to evaluate your underlying problems more accurately with specialized testing (urodynamics), allowing better tailoring of treatment to your specific problem. Medical treatment is increasingly helpful. Surgical treatment is becoming less invasive, allowing less hospitalization time and quicker return to regular activity.
Urologists (we) are physicians and surgeons who can help you with problems such as complicated infections in the urinary tract, all causes of obstruction of the urinary tract (such as kidney stones and enlarged prostate), all tumors or cancers involving organs/structures of the urinary tract (prostate, kidney, bladder, testis, penis), voiding difficulties or dysfunction, urinary incontinence (leakage of urine), erection problems, and conditions of the male reproductive tract (infertility, vasectomy, vasectomy reversal).
How is the Urinary System Needed?
The kidneys work along with the lungs, skin, and bowels to excrete all bodily waste. For an average adult, the kidneys process about 200 quartz of blood to produce about 1 ? to 2 quartz of urine each day. The amount can vary widely depending on your fluid intake, your level of physical activity, sweating, and breathing. Certain medications such as diuretics (fluid pills) are also important factors.
In addition to removing waste, important hormones are produced by the kidneys including 1) erythropoietin, important for red blood cells production, 2) renin, important in blood pressure regulation, and 3) the active form of Vitamin D, important in calcium metabolism and healthy bones.
The kidneys are bean-shaped organs (about the size of your fist), located near the middle on each side of your back, being protected (in theory) by the lower ribs.
Urine produced by a kidney empties into the kidney pelvis, down the ureter, into the bladder where it is stored. In adults, bladder emptying is usually a voluntary function with coordination of contraction of the bladder muscle and relaxation of the urinary sphincters. Many problems can interfere or interrupt this seemingly simple body function.
Urologists (we) evaluate and treat patients with these problems including:
Points to remember
- kidney obstruction due to abnormal development, kidney stones, or tumor
- injury to urinary tract from trauma or during other surgery
- tumor or cancer of kidney, ureter, bladder, and prostate
- enlarged prostate gland possibly affecting bladder emptying and eventually kidney function
- incontinence (leakage of urine)
- urinary retention (inability to urinate)
- incomplete bladder emptying
- frequent and/or urgent need to urinate
- blood in the urine
- frequent infection of urinary tract (bladder, kidney, prostate)
- persistent infection of urinary tract (bladder, kidney, prostate)
- Your kidneys are vital organs.
- Your overall kidney function depends on many variables, including proper healthy diet and regular exercise, controlling all medical conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, normal bladder functions, and possibly by the presence of infections, stones, and tumors;
- Early detection of kidney disease may be difficult because the underlying problem may be slow in evolving and worrisome symptoms are usually absent. Regular check-ups with your primary care physicians are important. Families with history of kidney disease are encouraged to have closer follow-ups.
*  This information is not intended to substitute for a consultation with a urologist. It is offered to educate patients on the basis of urological conditions in order to get the most out of their office visits and consultations. Please see our web page disclaimer for addition information.