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The urinary tract

2-minute read

The parts of the body that produce, store and remove urine are known as the body’s urinary tract.

Urine is produced in the kidneys, which are two bean-shaped organs situated in your lower back, below your ribs. The urine then passes through the ureters, which are tubes connecting the kidneys and bladder. Once in the bladder, the urine is stored until you have the urge to go to the toilet. When urinating, the urine passes from the bladder, through another tube called the urethra and out of the body.

Sometimes, part of the urinary tract can become infected. This is usually caused by bacteria that enter through the urethra, or more rarely, through the bloodstream.

Symptoms of an infection include:

  • pain in your lower back or side
  • pain or stinging when you urinate
  • passing urine more often than normal, but only passing a few drops
  • urine that is cloudy or smells unusual.

If the infection moves to the kidneys, there may also be high fever, back pain, diarrhoea and vomiting.

If you have these symptoms, it is important to see your doctor, because if a kidney infection is left untreated, it can lead to kidney damage and other complications.

Looking after yourself

To help maintain a healthy urinary tract follow these steps:

  • Drink plenty of water each day, unless you have a medical condition which means this is not possible.
  • Go to the toilet as soon as you feel the need to urinate, rather than holding it in.
  • After urination, women should wipe front to back to help prevent infections.
  • Urinate before and after sex.
  • Make sure you treat constipation quickly. Being constipated can increase your chances of developing a urinary tract infection.
  • Ensure you eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Wash your genitals every day and before having sex.
  • Use only a mild soap and make sure you wash this off thoroughly.
  • Avoid highly scented soaps, creams and bath products as these can irritate the genital area.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your urinary tract, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2017

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