Urinary System Anatomy and Function

The body takes nutrients from food and converts them to energy. After the body has taken the food that it needs, waste products are left behind in the bowel and in the blood. The urinary system keeps the chemicals and water in balance by removing a type of waste called urea from the blood.

Urea is produced when protein, found in meat products, is broken down in the body.

The urinary system parts and functions are:

urinary-anatomy-1There are pair of kidneys that are purplish-brown and are located underneath the ribs toward the middle of the back. Their function is to:

  • Remove liquid waste from the blood in the form of urine
  • Keep a stable balance of salts and other substances in the blood
  • Produce erythropoietin, a hormone that helps your body make red  blood cells

The kidneys remove urea from the blood through tiny filtering units called nephrons. Each nephron consists of a ball formed of small blood capillaries, called a glomerulus, and a small tube called a renal tubule.

Urea, together with water and other waste substances, forms the urine as it passes through the nephrons and down the renal tubules of the kidney.

Each kidney has a narrow tube called a ureter, which carries urine from the kidney to the bladder. Muscles in the ureter walls continually tighten and relax forcing urine down this tube, away from the kidneys. If urine backs up, or is allowed to stand still, a kidney infection can develop. About every 10 to 15 seconds, small amounts of urine are emptied into the bladder from the ureters.

A triangle-shaped, hollow organ located in the lower abdomen. It is held in place by ligaments that are attached to other organs and the pelvic bones. The bladder's walls relax and expand to store urine, and contract and flatten to empty urine through the urethra.

Circular muscles that help keep urine from leaking by closing tightly like a rubber band around the opening of the bladder. 

Alert a person when it is time to urinate, or empty the bladder.

urinary-anatomy-2The tube that allows urine to pass outside the body. The brain signals the bladder muscles to tighten, which squeezes urine out of the bladder. At the same time, the brain signals the sphincter muscles to relax to let urine exit the bladder through the urethra. When all the signals occur in the correct order, normal urination occurs.


Last Updated 06/2013