What is a urethra?

Imagine a funnel with a wide cone at the top leading to a slim tube at the bottom. The tube’s purpose is to guide liquid from the cone into a small opening. The urethra looks and functions the same way. Since it’s connected to the bladder, the tube acts as a passageway for urine to exit your body. But unlike funnels, your urethra has sphincter muscles that allow you to stop the flow of urine. 

Where is the urethra?

The urethra starts from your bladder neck, goes through the pelvic and urogenital diaphragms, and extends to the external urethral orifice or the outside of your body. 

  • Where is the urethra in males?

The urethra follows the length of the penis, so it might be around seven to eight inches. The male urethra differs in purpose because it’s attached to both the urinary bladder and seminal ducts from the testes, making it a passageway for both urine and semen. It also has three main parts::

  • Prostatic urethra: The part closest to the prostate and is the uppermost area, beginning  at the bladder neck and continuing to the prostate gland.
  • Membranous urethra: The narrowest portion, which starts at the pelvic floor and ends at the deep perineal pouch surrounded by the  external urethral sphincter. 
  • Penile urethra: The longest segment of the penis. The penile or bulbous urethra spans from the corpus spongiosum and ends at the external urethral orifice. 
  • Where is the urethra in females?

A female’s urethra also follows the reproductive organ, specifically along the vaginal wall. Since the vagina isn’t as long as a penis, the female urethra is shorter, with an average length of inch and a half. For females, their urethras begin at the bladder neck. It passes through the perineal membrane and pelvic floor, then opens to the vestibule. 

A woman’s urethra has an epithelium lining, or a layer of cells, which produces mucus responsible for protecting the epithelium from corrosive urine.

How do you find the urethra?

Familiarity with the anatomy will allow you to properly insert a urinary catheter. 

The opening at the tip of the penis, also known as the meatus, is the end point of the urethra. It may be more challenging for women to locate, so here are some steps to consider:

  1. Clean your hands

It’s important to wash your hands thoroughly before looking for your urethra so you can avoid contaminating your opening. 

  1. Grab a mirror

A mirror can help you spot this duct better. You may want to find a mirror that’s easily adjustable to have a clearer view and a more comfortable position. 

  1. Use light

Lights might help you define the shape of your urethra. Place a source of light directly to your vulva so you can identify the duct. 

  1. Identify your urethra

When you spread your labia, you’ll notice two holes. The one at the lower end is your vaginal opening, so don’t confuse it with your urethral opening, which is located above your vagina and below your clitoris. 

Urethral disorders

It might be helpful if you can identify common symptoms and seek professional help immediately. Some conditions you may encounter can include:

  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)

A UTI may affect any part of your urinary system, including the kidneys, urethra, bladder, and ureters. If you are a female, you are more likely to get a UTI because harmful bacteria can quickly enter your urinary tract since your urethra is shorter and closer to the rectum. Its symptoms may include:

  • Peeing frequent but small amounts of urine
  • Pelvic pain 
  • Cloudy urine
  • Red or pinkish urine
  • Burning sensation when peeing
  • Persistent need to urinate
  • Strong-smelling urine
  • Urethritis

This infection might be because your partner transmitted bacteria or viruses during sexual intercourse. Urethritis may also emerge from a contraceptive-inflicted injury, Reiter’s syndrome, disinfectants, or antiseptics. 

The symptoms of this urethral infection can differ between men and women and can include:

  • Women
    • Itchy genital area
    • Fever 
    • Chills
    • Frequent urination
    • Pain during intercourse
    • Unusual vaginal discharge
    • Stomach pain
    • Pelvic pain
  • Men
    • Penile discharge
    • Swollen, itchy, or tender penis
    • Burning sensation while urinating
    • Penile discharge
    • Blood in urine or semen
    • Painful ejaculation
  • Urethral stricture

A scar that can block and slow your urine flow that might be from an injury, infection, or swelling. Here are common symptoms of urethral stricture:

  • Dark urine
  • Blood in semen
  • Painful urination
  • Abdominal pain
  • Swollen penis
  • Slow urine stream
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Urethral cancer

Although rare, anyone can get urethral cancer but it may be more common in males than females. There is no exact cause for this cancer, but a history of urethral disorders such as UTI, urethral diverticulum, or urethral stricture might put you at risk.

Urethra care

You can avoid urethral disorders by taking care of your urinary system. Here are some practices you might want to consider for a healthier urinary system:

  • Urinate after sex

Since UTIs may happen to anyone after intercourse, preventing bacteria from traveling up your urinary tract is essential. If you are a woman, penetration increases your risk of developing a UTI because it might irritate your urethra and force bacteria towards your bladder. Urination  may flush bacteria out of your body. 

Ejaculation through the penile urethra may be sufficient for men since the urethra empties itself.  

  • Wipe from front to back (females)

Wiping from front to back might keep you from developing urethral disorders since you lead bacteria away from your opening. 

If you start to notice symptoms of any urethral disease, consult your healthcare professionals immediately. If you have more questions about the recommended medical supplies, get in touch with us at Better Health by calling 415-475-8444. We have trusted experts who can guide you.

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