The human body comprises nine major organ systems that work as a team to carry out essential functions and keep the body healthy. The urinary system is one of them and consists of several organs that work to remove the waste from the body. In addition to the urinary system, other organs within the body help get rid of the waste. For example, the skin eliminates waste products through sweat glands. The liver eliminates bile pigments produced by the destruction of hemoglobin. The respiratory system eliminates carbon dioxide produced by the body after oxygen consumption. So this is how the other organ systems of the body carry out their activities.
What Is the Urinary System?
The urinary system or the renal system consists of the organs that form and transport urine outside the body. The organs are connected with the help of tubes and further connected to the digestive system and the blood vessels. The body derives energy from the food to carry out daily activities. After the body has used the food products, unused ones are left as waste in the blood and the bowel. The urinary system filters blood, and the waste products are separated and converted to urine. The major component of urine is urea, formed due to amino acid metabolism. The urinary system also maintains the fluid volume of the body by controlling the amount of water excreted in the urine.
What Are the Components of the Urinary System?
The urinary system consists of four significant organs connected, and they work together to keep the body healthy and free of all toxins. The organs comprising the urinary system are listed below:
Kidneys (two in number).
Ureters (two in number).
The structure and functions of the organs present in the urinary system are described below:
1. Kidneys - The kidneys are the principal organs of the urinary system. The human body comprises two bean-shaped kidneys located below the rib cage. The right kidney is at a lower level than the left because of the space occupied by the liver. A layer of connective tissue, the renal fascia, holds the kidneys in position. The kidneys consist of the renal cortex, renal medulla, and renal pelvis. The functions of the kidneys are listed below:
- Remove the toxins and waste products from the body as urine.
- The kidneys work to filter the blood, and about 120 to 150 quarts of blood are filtered daily.
- Release the hormone renin to maintain the blood pressure of the body.
- Maintain the levels of water and electrolytes within the body.
- Control the production of red blood cells (RBCs) by secreting the hormone erythropoietin.
- Maintain the pH of the blood.
2. Ureters - They are narrow tube-like structures that serve as a link between the urinary bladder and the kidneys. The ureters consist of muscles in their wall that contract and relax them. The function of the ureters is listed below:
- After the urine formation is complete, it is drained into the ureters through the renal pelvis. Next, the muscles in the ureters undergo contraction and relaxation to transport the urine to the urinary bladder.
3.Urinary Bladder - It is a hollow, muscular, and balloon-shaped organ located in the lower abdominal region. The bladder expands when it gets filled up with urine. The ligaments hold the bladder in position. The bladder also contains sphincter muscles (ring-shaped muscles) that hold the urine and prevents urine leakage. The functions of the urinary bladder are listed below:
- Stores the urine received from the ureters.
- The bladder walls expand and relax while storing the urine and contract and flatten to empty the urine.
- The bladder also contains nerves that signal the brain that the bladder is full and the person needs to urinate to empty it.
4. Urethra - The tube-like structure that links the bladder to the outside world. It carries the urine outside the body, thereby helping the body get rid of the waste.
How Does the Urinary System Work?
The kidneys consist of numerous small structures called the nephrons that carry out the process of urine formation. The nephrons, in turn, consist of a capillary network known as the glomerulus. It works to filter the blood. The kidneys receive blood from various arteries present within the body. The blood flows through the network of capillaries (glomerulus) under pressure. As blood flows through the glomerulus, the process of filtration begins. The kidneys separate the toxins from the substances essential for the body through filtration. The vitamins, minerals, proteins, blood cells, and other important components of the body are returned to the bloodstream. Water, waste ions, urea, creatinine, and other substances not required by the body are sent to the urinary bladder through the ureters. Finally, these substances are excreted in the form of urine with the help of the urethra.
What Are the Common Conditions That Affect the Urinary System?
There are a variety of conditions that affect the urinary system and the organs present in it. Some of the conditions are present since birth, and the individual acquires some during his lifetime. The common conditions that affect the urinary system are listed below:
Sexually Transmitted Infections: These types of infections are commonly seen in women. It is because the urethra in females is located close to the vagina. This allows the bacteria to enter the urinary system and cause disease easily.
Urinary Incontinence: This condition is characterized by the leakage of urine due to the loss of bladder control. It commonly occurs in women, and the urine might leak during coughing, laughing, sneezing, exercising, or lifting heavy objects. As a result, the patient needs to rush to the bathroom frequently to urinate. The condition can be controlled through exercises and medications.
Urinary System Defects: Sometimes, defects are present in the urinary system by birth that cause problems later in life. These defects interfere with the urine flow resulting in the accumulation of urine within the body. As a result, the person suffers from a urinary tract infection. The presence of fused kidneys (horseshoe kidneys) and prune belly syndrome are some of the defects that occur by birth. The defects present in the urinary system can be corrected surgically.
Kidney Diseases: The presence of systemic diseases like diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure) affect the kidneys to a large extent. A protein known as albumin is present in large amounts in the urine of diabetic patients. Polycystic kidney disease is the most commonly encountered condition that directly affects the kidneys. The presence of multiple fluid-filled sacs (cysts) on the surface of kidneys is seen in this condition. As a result, the kidneys fail to function over time. Overdose of medications prescribed by the doctor also impacts the health of the kidneys. The patient must consume the drugs in the required amount recommended by the doctor.
How to Keep the Urinary System Healthy?
The urinary system can be kept healthy in the following ways:
Stay Hydrated: It is important to drink six to eight glasses of water daily to keep the toxins away from the body. The major component of urine is water, so to flush out the waste products from the body, the person needs to drink a sufficient amount of water daily. In addition, the person needs to drink more water than recommended in case of kidney stones and urinary tract infections.
Healthy Diet: The diet rich in fibers, proteins, and calcium is required to maintain a regular bowel movement to keep the urinary bladder healthy. Along with a healthy diet, a healthy lifestyle also plays an important role. Exercising regularly, going for a walk, and cutting down on alcohol consumption and caffeine-containing foods are some ways to make the urinary system healthy.
Healthy Bladder Habits: Sometimes, it is seen that people do not go to the bathroom and hold urine. This is an unhealthy habit because the urine remains within the bladder and strains the bladder muscles. It increases the risk of urinary tract infections. The person must urinate as soon as he feels the need to do so. It is important to urinate after intercourse (sex) to avoid infection later. One should not be in a hurry while urinating because that causes incomplete emptying of the bladder. Come out of the bathroom only after the bladder is empty.
Wiping Properly: People, especially women, need to wipe from front to back after urinating to prevent the bacteria from entering the vagina.
Kegel Exercises: These exercises provide strength to the muscles of the pelvic floor and should be done regularly. To do the exercise, identify the pelvic floor muscles (the muscles that help pass urine) and contact and relax them for three seconds. It also helps to deal with the problem of urinary incontinence (urine leakage).
The urinary system is an integral part of the human body and consists of kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder, and urethra. All the organs present in this system work together to remove the waste products from the body. The kidneys are a very important part of the urinary system. They filter the blood and keep a check on the substances leaving the body. Therefore, it is important to take care of the urinary system by maintaining healthy bowel and bladder habits, having a nutritious diet, and exercising regularly. Urinary tract infection, kidney diseases, urinary tract obstruction, and polycystic kidney disease are some of the conditions that affect the health of the kidneys. Therefore, the patient should consult the doctor when any such condition is diagnosed.