Your urinary system is made up of the kidneys, the bladder, the ureters and the urethra. The urethra is the hollow tube that lets urine, a waste product, leave the body. The urethra can become infected or scarred.
The urethra is the tube that lets urine leave your bladder and your body. If you were assigned male at birth, your urethra passes through your prostate and into your penis. If you were assigned female at birth, your urethra is much shorter. It runs from your bladder to open in front of your vagina.
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The urethra is part of your urinary system. This system is made up of your kidneys, bladder, ureters and urethra. Your kidneys clean your blood and produce urine, a waste product. From your two kidneys, two ureters move the urine to the bladder, where it’s stored until you urinate (pee). Urine leaves your body through a hole at the end of your urethra. That hole from the inside to the outside is called the urethral meatus. (The term ‘meatus’ refers to any opening from the inside to the outside.)
The urethra is a passageway located in your body’s pelvic region. The walls of the tube are thin and made up of epithelial tissue, smooth muscle cells and connective tissue.
The urethra has two different types of sphincters, or muscles that act as valves that open or close. There is an internal urethral sphincter, which is located at the point where the urethra leaves the bladder. There’s also an external urethral sphincter located in the pelvic floor. These muscles work together with the bladder to get urine out of your body.
If you’re someone who’s been assigned female at birth, your urethra is about 1.5 inches (3 to 4 centimeters) long. If you’re someone who’s been assigned male at birth, your urethra is about 8 to 9 inches long (about 20 centimeters).
In the anatomy typically called male, there are three parts to the urethra:
Issues with the urethra are more common in people who have urethral anatomy that is typically considered to be male.
If you have a damaged urethra, you may have certain complications, including:
Here are some common signs or symptoms you might have if you have a medical condition involving your urethra.
If your healthcare provider suspects you have a disorder of the urethra, they may order these types of tests:
If you do have a disorder involving the urethra, the treatment will depend on the disorder. Possible therapies include:
If you have an infection, your provider will put you on anti-infective medications, such as antibiotics. If you have something like urethral cancer, your provider may suggest chemotherapeutic drugs.
Many urethral conditions require treatments as therapies. These treatments may include:
One of the most important things you can do is drink enough fluids, preferably water. Other tips include:
Review your medications, foods and choice of birth control with your healthcare provider if you have problems with your urinary tract. Some medications and foods can affect your urinary system.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your urethra is the hollow tube that allows urine, which is a waste product, to leave your body. While you can’t guarantee that it will stay healthy, you can do things that will help, like drinking enough water every day and not overdoing caffeine and alcohol. If you have pain while peeing or see blood in your urine, contact your healthcare provider.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/05/2022.
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