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Urethra

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What is Urethra Meaning?

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When it comes to Urethra meaning, it is the duct that transmits urine from the bladder to the exterior of the body during urination. The urethra is held closed by the urethral sphincter, a muscular structure helping to keep urine in the bladder. Since the urethra is linked with the reproductive structures, its characteristics in the male are quite different from females.

The male urethra is about 7 to 8 inches long and passes along the length of the penis before emptying. The urethra passes through the prostate gland. Similarly, the seminal ducts from the testes enter the urethra at each side making a pathway for the transmission of the semen.

The male urethra is divided into three different sections- prostatic urethra (the uppermost segment within the prostate), the membranous urethra (the segment within the urethral sphincter), and the spongy urethra (the lowermost and longest section within the penis).

The female urethra is embedded within the vaginal wall, and the opening is located between the labia. Compared to male, the female urethra is shorter which is 1.5 inch. In females, the urethra is of three parts- the internal sphincter, the urethrovaginal muscle, and the external sphincter, often called the compressor muscle and the urethra is compressed against the vagina. At the end of the female urethra, there are two mucous glands called Skene glands. These are homologous in the male prostate and secrete lubricants, acting as the protective barrier against infection.

In males, the blood supply to the prostatic urethra is provided by the inferior vesical artery. The membranous urethra and spongy urethra supplied by branches of the internal pudendal artery.

  • Prostatic Urethra

The prostatic urethra is the widest part of the canal and is about 3 cm long. This urethra runs vertically through the prostate from the base to the apex and lies near the anterior than the posterior surface. The transverse section of the canal lying in the prostate is horse-shoe shaped.

The prostate gland surrounding the urethra can push the opposite lumen walls of the urethra together, causing stenosis. If there is severe enlargement then it will require a surgical prostatectomy. The prostatic urethra is surrounded by an internal urethral sphincter in the middle part. The elevation at the posterior part is called Urethral Crest. The ejaculatory ducts open up in the prostatic urethra carrying sperms from the seminal vesicles into the urethra.

  • Penile Urethra

The penile urethra also called the spongy urethra is the largest part of the urethra, which is around 15cm and is divided into two parts- pendulous urethra and bulbar urethra. The pendulous urethra runs along the penis length, the bulbar urethra is located in the bulb of the penis. This spongy urethra opens to the outside through the urethral meatus.

Many individuals end up facing stricture urethra. It happens when the narrowing from scar tissue occurs in the urethra. As time passes, urethral strictures obstruct the ability to urinate, which further leads to kidney damage. More than 40% of stricture urethra occur due to the urethral manipulation to undergo the treatment. Many times, some inflammatory conditions can also cause urethral strictures. These can be due to Sexually Transmitted Disease.

  • Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infection is primarily caused due to the transfer of bacteria from the area around the anus. Due to the shorter size of the urethra in females, a bladder infection is quite common.

The tract infection can be upper or lower, depending on the areas of the urinary system infected. Infection of the kidney is an upper urinary tract infection, especially in those who have lower bladder UTIs.

Urethra Disorder Treatment

Since urethra disorder can happen due to any reason, it is important to have a good knowledge of the treatment and conduct the same at the right time. If the individual has lower UTIs, the urethra disorder treatment will include antibiotics due to bacterial infections. Also, if there is urethra stricture, dilation is required. Dilation involves the insertion of gradually larger wires until the lumen is wide enough.

In the case of bladder stone, the process would involve the removal of stone within the urethra and is performed using extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) to break up the stones. However, this procedure is not conducted on pregnant women.

  • Caruncle Urethra

Caruncle urethra is a small benign vascular growth occurring back of the distal-most end of the urethra. This urethra problem arises commonly in women who go through menopause. In many rare cases, men too face this Caruncle urethra problem. Some of the common symptoms of urethra disease are blood clot, painful urethra, and bleeding.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1) How does Urethra get Affected?

The urethra can be affected due to many ways. A congenital disorder is the most common reason. In this, the urethra opens on the underside of the penis. Both, male and female urethra can be affected due to inflammatory conditions. Then, there is urethral stricture or the narrowing of the urethra caused by developmental conditions.


Urethral cancer is quite rare but more common in women than men. If you have a history of bladder cancer, then there is a high chance of getting urethral cancer. In the case of inflammation, some common symptoms of inflammation are urinating, frequent urination, dysuria (pain with urination), and bleeding.

2) What are the Three Parts of the Male Urethra?

The male urethra is 15-20cm long and it transports semen- a fluid containing spermatozoa and sex gland secretions. The three parts of the male urethra are:


Prostatic Urethra:

It begins as a continuation of the bladder neck passing through the prostate gland. It receives the ejaculatory ducts and the prostatic ducts. It is the widest and most dilatable portion of the urethra.


Membranous Urethra:

This passes through the pelvic floor and the deep perineal pouch. It is surrounded by the external urethral sphincter and is the narrowest and least dilatable portion of the urethra.


Penile Urethra: 

The penile urethra passes through the bulb and corpus spongiosum of the penis. It receives bulbourethral glands proximally.

Many biology experts find the urethra that passes through the bladder neck as the fourth anatomic part of the urethra.