In anatomy, the urethra is a tube that connects the urinary bladder to the outside of the body.
In males, the urethra is the conduit for semen during sexual intercourse. It also serves as a passage for urine to flow. In females, the urethra is shorter and emerges above the vaginal opening.
The external urethral sphincter is a striated muscle that allows voluntary control over urination.
The female urethra is about 4 cm in length. There is inadequate data for the typical length of the male urethra, however a study of 109 men showed an average length of 22.3 cm (SD = 2.4 cm), ranging from 15 cm to 29 cm.
Drawing of male and female urinary tracts with the kidney, ureter, bladder, prostate (male), and urethra labeled.
Urethra: Medical Problems
- Hypospadias and epispadias are forms of abnormal development of the urethra in the male, where the meatus is not located at the distal end of the penis (it occurs lower than normal with hypospadias, and higher with epispadias). In a severe chordee, the urethra can develop between the penis and the scrotum.
- Infection of the urethra is urethritis, said to be more common in females than males. Urethritis is a common cause of dysuria (pain when urinating).
- Related to urethritis is so called urethral syndrome
- Passage of kidney stones through the urethra can be painful, which can lead to urethral strictures.
- Cancer of the urethra.
- Foreign bodies in the urethra are uncommon, but there have been medical case reports of self-inflicted injuries, a result of insertion of foreign bodies into the urethra such as an electrical wire.
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Last Updated: Sep 8, 2014