The genitourinary tract includes the urinary and genital organs. Various conditions, such as urinary tract infections and kidney problems, may affect the genitourinary tract.
The genitourinary tract includes the urinary and reproductive systems. People may also refer to the genitourinary tract or system as the urogenital system.
This article outlines the anatomy of the genitourinary tract and the conditions that might affect it. It will also look at how doctors diagnose these health conditions and the potential treatment options available.
The genitourinary tract includes the urinary system and the reproductive system. In males and females, the urinary tract consists of the following:
- Kidneys: The kidneys are two fist-sized organs located at the back of the abdomen, just below the ribcage. The kidneys filter waste from the blood, which leaves the body as urine.
- Ureters: The ureters are two tubes attached to the kidneys. They carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.
- Bladder: The bladder is a hollow organ that collects urine. The bladder can hold roughly
1.5 to 2 cups of urine, which empties when people urinate, but this can vary.
- Urethra: The urethra is a tube that connects to the bladder and allows urine to pass out of the body when people urinate. In males, the urethra also carries semen outside of the body.
- Penis: The penis is an external reproductive organ that contains the urethra, as well as erectile tissues that allow the penis to fill with blood during sexual arousal to create an erection.
- Scrotum: The scrotum is an external sac containing the testicles, which are located underneath the penis.
- Testicles: The testicles, or testes, are two organs that produce testosterone and sperm.
- Epididymis: The epididymis is a coiled tube that attaches to the testes to collect and store sperm cells until they mature.
- Vas deferens: The vas deferens is a tube that transports matured sperm cells from the epididymis to allow sperm to leave the body in ejaculation.
- Ejaculatory ducts: The ejaculatory ducts join to the seminal vesicles, collect fluid from the prostate to add to semen, and carry sperm into the urethra.
- Seminal vesicles: The seminal vesicles are glands that mix sperm with a fluid to increase sperm motility and form semen. They also produce fructose, which is a source of nutrition for sperm cells.
- Prostate: The prostate is a gland underneath the bladder. It releases a fluid that helps form semen.
- Bulbourethral glands: The bulbourethral glands, or Cowper’s glands, produce a fluid to lubricate the urethra and neutralize the acidity of urine in the urethra.
- Vulva: The vulva is the external genitalia that contains the labia majora, the labia minora, and the clitoris glan.
- Vaginal opening: Also called the vaginal vestibule or introitus, the vaginal opening is located between the anus and urethra.
- Vagina: The vagina is a tube lined with mucous membranes that run from the cervix to the vaginal opening.
- Cervix: The cervix sits between the vagina and the uterus. It allows fluids to leave and enter the uterus and expands during childbirth to allow vaginal delivery.
- Uterus: The uterus, or womb, is a hollow, muscular organ that allows a fetus to grow during pregnancy.
- Ovaries: The ovaries are glands that produce female hormones and eggs for reproduction.
- Fallopian tubes: The fallopian tubes attach to the uterus and transport eggs from the ovaries to the uterus.
Some health conditions that can affect the genitourinary tract in females and males include:
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs): UTIs occur due to bacterial infections of the urinary tract.
- Urethritis: Urethritis is an inflammation of the urethra that occurs due to a bacterial infection.
- Cystitis: This condition causes inflammation or irritation of the bladder wall. Interstitial cystitis is a subcategory of this condition.
- Vesicoureteral reflux (VUR): VUR is a condition in which urine flows backward from the bladder toward the kidneys.
- Kidney disease: Kidney disease may occur through kidney damage that results in the kidneys being unable to function correctly.
- Cancer: Cancers of the genitourinary tract may include bladder cancer or kidney cancer.
Male-specific health conditions
Genitourinary tract conditions that may affect the male anatomy include:
- Undescended testes: Undescended testes, or cryptorchidism, is a congenital abnormality in which
one or bothtestes do not descend into the scrotum.
- Hypospadias: Hypospadias is a congenital abnormality in which the urethra opening occurs in an abnormal place, rather than at the tip of the penis.
- Hydrocele: A hydrocele is a swelling of the scrotum due to fluid collecting around the testicle.
- Erectile dysfunction: Erectile dysfunction is a persistent difficulty with getting or maintaining an erection.
- Testicular torsion: Testicular torsion is a twisting of the testicle, which can cut off blood supply and requires emergency medical care.
- Prostatitis: Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate.
- Benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH): BPH is the enlargement of the prostate that is
commonin older males. BPH can cause problems with urinating.
- Peyronie’s disease: Peyronie’s disease is the formation of scar tissue or a lump in the penis.
- Cancer: This may include prostate, penile, kidney, bladder, or testicular cancer.
Female-specific health conditions
Genitourinary tract conditions that may affect the female anatomy include:
- Endometriosis: Endometriosis occurs if the tissue lining the uterus grows in other areas of the body.
- Uterine fibroids: Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors that grow in or around the uterus.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): PCOS causes cysts to form on the ovaries.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): PID is an infection of the female reproductive organs.
- Pelvic organ prolapse: Pelvic organ prolapse occurs if an organ in the pelvis, such as the uterus, drops down out of its usual position.
- Gynecologic cancers: Gynecologic cancers begin in the reproductive organs and include ovarian, cervical, uterine, vaginal, or vulvar cancer.
To diagnose genitourinary conditions, doctors will examine the urinary and reproductive systems.
To diagnose urinary conditions, a doctor
- MRI scans
- CT scans
- radionuclide scans, which involve a doctor injecting a radioactive chemical called radionuclide into the body to help produce a detailed image
Additional tests doctors
- Cystoscopy: A doctor uses a thin device with a lens and light at one end to examine the inside of the urethra and bladder for any abnormalities.
- Ureteroscopy: A doctor uses a longer, thinner device with a lens and light at one end to examine inside the ureters and kidneys for any problems.
In males, doctors
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of a genitourinary condition but may include:
- Lifestyle changes: Healthy lifestyle habits, such as regular exercise and a balanced diet, may help support the
urinary tractand reproductive health.
- Antibiotics or antifungals: These medications may help treat a bacterial or fungal infection.
- Other medications: Certain medications may help treat conditions such as erectile dysfunction, endometriosis, or PCOS.
- Surgery: People may require surgery in some cases. This can help treat conditions such as testicular torsion or endometriosis.
- Cancer treatments: Treatment for cancers of the reproductive organs may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery to remove cancerous tissue. Another type of treatment involves using monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) to stimulate the patient’s immune system to treat the cancer.
It is important to contact a doctor if a person notices any symptoms that could indicate a health condition affecting the genitourinary tract.
Getting a diagnosis can help treat the underlying condition or manage symptoms. Some conditions, such as testicular torsion, require emergency treatment.
The genitourinary tract includes the urinary and reproductive systems. Many health conditions can affect the genitals, urinary tract, or reproductive organs.
Some conditions, such as UTIs, kidney disease, and cancer, can affect anyone. Other conditions may depend on a person’s specific anatomy based on their sex assigned at birth.