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In anatomy, the urethra is a tube which connects the urinary bladder to the outside of the body. The urethra has an excretory function in both genders to pass urine to the outside, and also a reproductive function in the male, as a passage for sperm.
Because of the short length of the urethra, women tend to be more susceptible to infections of the bladder (cystitis) and the urinary tract.
The female urethra is a narrow membranous canal, extending from the internal to the external urethral orifice. It is placed behind the symphysis pubis, imbedded in the anterior wall of the vagina, and its direction is obliquely downward and forward; it is slightly curved with the concavity directed forward. Its lining is composed of stratified squamous epithelium, which becomes transitional near the bladder. The urethra consists of three coats: muscular, erectile, and mucous, the muscular layer being a continuation of that of the bladder. Between the superior and inferior fascia of the urogenital diaphragm, the female urethra is surrounded by the Sphincter urethae. Somatic innervation of the external urethral sphincter is supplied by the pudendal nerve. The uro-genital sinus may be divided into three component parts. The first of these is the cranial portion which is continuous with the allantois and forms the bladder proper. The pelvic part of the sinus forms the prostatic urethra and epithelium as well as the membranous urethra and bulbo urethral glands in the male and the membranous urethra and part of the vagina in females
In the human male, the urethra is about 8 inches (20 cm) long and opens at the end of the penis. The inside of the urethra has a spiral groove (like rifling in a gun barrel), which makes the urine flow in a wide stream.
The urethra is divided into three parts in men, named after the location:
The length of a male's urethra, and the fact it contains a number of bends, makes catheterisation more difficult.
The epithelium of the urethra starts off as transitional cells as it exits the bladder. Further along the urethra there are stratified columnar cells, then stratified squamous cells near the external meatus (exit hole).
There are small mucus-secreting urethral glands, that help protect the epithelium from the corrosive urine.
Medical problems of the urethra
Endoscopy of the bladder via the urethra is called cystoscopy.
The male urethra is the conduit for sperm during sexual intercourse. It also serves as a passage for urine to flow.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Urethra". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|