A Simple Guide to the Urinary System

If your child has a urinary problem then you’ll probably hear a lot of unfamiliar terms. Keep reading to learn all about the different parts of the urinary system that might play a part in your child’s condition.

Guide to the Urinary System


The kidneys are the organs that make urine. We usually have two kidneys, one on each side of the body. The shape is a bit like a kidney bean. The kidneys filter water, waste products and toxins out of the blood. The liquid that they produce is urine and it is named after a substance called urea, which we produce when we break down proteins. Having too much urea in the body can cause problems, which is why we need to urinate to get rid of it. If your child’s kidneys aren’t working properly then it can cause serious problems, but we usually only need one working kidney.


After urine is produced in the kidneys, it passes along tubes called ureters into the bladder. Each kidney has its own ureter that is connected to the top of the bladder. Since the kidneys are always producing urine, it should always be moving along these tubes into the bladder. However, if your child has a kidney stone, it can sometimes block the movement, which can be very painful.


The bladder is the organ where urine is stored before it passes out of the body. It is a bit like a balloon as it can expand as it fills up with urine. Two valve-like muscles at the base of the bladder keep the urine inside until your child is ready to urinate. We can usually control when these valves will open, but it can take children some time to master their bladder control. If there are any problems with the valves it can also result in leaks or urinary incontinence.


When the valves at the base of the bladder are open, urine will pass out along a tube called the urethra. The urethra carries urine out of the body. It is longer in boys than in girls as it must pass all the way along the penis. In girls, there is a higher risk of UTIs because the opening of the urethra is closer to the body. However, in boys there can be a risk of infection if the foreskin isn’t cleaned properly.

Urine infections can happen in any of these parts of the urinary system. The symptoms are usually more serious when they occur in the upper urinary system (the bladder, ureters or kidneys) than when they are in the urethra. Children are more likely to develop upper urinary tract infections than adults, but they are still much rarer than lower UTIs. This is because infections usually get into the urinary tract through the urethra. Since the urethra opens up outside the body, it is possible for bacteria to get in. You can reduce the chances of this happening by keeping the area clean and making sure that you’re always wiping from front to back.

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