Urinary System Disorders

There are many disorders of the urinary system.

Your health very much depends on your urinary system functioning well. Waste products build up in the body when this system fails to function. Serious disorders, and even death, may result. Please consult your doctor immediately if you have any of the symptoms of the disorders discussed in this article.

Nephritis is the inflammation of the nephrons of the kidney, often called Bright's disease. It can be caused by most anything that irritates the kidneys, such as exposure to turpentine, bichloride of mercy, or even exposure to a cold. Bright's disease may follow very mild throat infections, so it is wise always to avoid fatigue or chilling, or anything that lowers resistance to colds. Toxins also cause nephritis, such as from scarlet fever, tonsillitis, alcohol, or measles. There are two kinds of nephritis: acute and chronic. In acute nephritis, the symptoms vary, but generally they involve dropsy in the ankles and eyelids, presence of albumin in the urine, suppression of urine, and sometimes convulsions. In most cases, there is no damage to the kidneys or other body parts, but in very severe cases death can result. When the kidneys suffer permanent damage, nephritis is chronic.

The symptoms of the chronic type of nephritis are somewhat the same as the acute type because there is almost always dropsy in the legs and eyelids. The urine becomes suppressed, complexion becomes pale, skin becomes puffy, and there is a possibility of complete urine suppression. The blood vessels supplying the nephrons of the kidney tissue can harden making it hard to force blood through the kidneys and resulting in a decrease in urine. Much can be done to slow down the progress of chronic nephritis.

Pyelonephritis is generally called "pelvis nephritis" and refers to inflammation of the renal pelvis and connective tissues of the kidney. As with cystitis, pyelonephritis is usually caused by bacterial infection but can also result from viral infection, mycosis, calculi, tumors, pregnancy, and other conditions. Acute pyelonephritis develops rapidly and is characterized by chills, fever, pain in the sides (flank), nausea, and an urge to urinate frequently. This often is the result of the spread of infection from the lower urinary tract or through the blood from other organs. Chronic pyelonephritis is thought to be caused by an autoimmune disease but is often preceded by a bacterial infection or urinary blockage.

Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder and most often occurs because of an infection when bacteria enters the bladder through the urethra. Women are known to have this condition more than men because the female urethra is shorter and closer to the anus than the male's and is a source of bacteria. Symptoms of cystitis are persistent frequency of urination and also suprapublic pain. The inflammations of the bladder may be characterized by pelvic pan, an urge to urinate frequently, and also hematuria. Urethral syndrome and interstitial cystitis are two common forms of this inflammation and are "nonbacterial" forms. Interstitial is an autoimmune disease of the bladder, and urethral syndrome occurs most in young women but develops into a bacterial infection.

Urethritis is an inflammation of the urethra that results most of the time from a bacterial infection, often from gonorrhea. Males, especially infant males, suffer from urethritis more than females. It is an infection of the urethra, the pathway for urine and semen. Symptoms are pain, a burning sensation during urination or erection, and a discharge from the urethral opening on the tip of the penis. Most cases of urethritis can be treated with antibiotics. This is easily transmitted from one partner to another sexually.

Enuresis is the unintentional voiding of urine, mostly at night, and is commonly referred to as bedwetting. Enuresis may result from a delay in development or from loss of bladder control. This may be affected by psychological or physical factors, and there seems to be no common cause. By the time most children reach puberty, they are no longer wetting the bed. There should be a careful evaluation at the start of bedwetting to conclude if there is chronic retention with dribbling incontinence due to either bladder neck obstruction or neurologic disease. A urinalysis reveals if there is an unsuspected infection. Corrections can be made in a minor form or urologic abnormalities, such as meatal stenosis, balanitis, vulvovaginitis, and posterior urethritis. Sometimes these corrections give relief. This is a common problem of childhood, and there are many causes such as improper training, nervous tensions, or even heredity.

Bladder or kidney stones form from the salts of calcium oxalate and uric acid. These stones form by precipitation around some sort of nucleus composed of bacteria, blood clumps, or similar foreign substances. The diet has also been known to cause these bladder or kidney stones. These stones can form in or near the kidney or the ureter and are not necessarily formed just in the bladder. As they pass down the ureter, oftentimes there is severe pain accompanying this passage of stones. In some cases, these bladder or kidney stones are too large to pass through the ureter and have to be surgically removed. In most cases, the stones pass through on their own without surgery. If your doctor suspects you have a bladder or kidney stone, you may be asked to fast for several days and severely limit your intake of water.

The prostate gland is about the size of a horse chestnut, and it opens by means of numerous ducts into the male urethra near the base of the bladder. There are layers of smooth muscle around the prostate gland that contract and force the gland's secretion into the urethra. Prostatic concretions are peculiar spherical bodies found in the cavities. This condensation of the secretion may become calcified. As a male ages, the secretion has more condensation and the secretions increase. The prostate gland tends to enlarge and brings about a constriction of the part of the urethra that passes through the gland. Sometimes a tube has to be inserted through the urethra into the bladder to facilitate the flow of urine when the constriction becomes too severe. About one third of all men past the age of sixty have this to some extent.

Blood in the urine is a symptom and not a disease. This could mean that there is the presence of a serious disease of the ureter, bladder, kidney, prostate gland, urethra, or any part of the genito-urinary system. Sometimes blood exists in the urine as a first indication of cancer of the kidney or bladder. Even kidney stones may cause bleeding. Certain respiratory infections, such as tuberculosis, also may contribute to blood in the urine.

Proper hygiene of the urinary system is essential. The kidneys are influenced by the general activity of the body, particularly muscular exercise. If you have excessive muscular activity, this throws an additional burden upon the kidneys and leads to too rapid cooling, inducing inflammation and congestion of the kidneys. When the kidneys are weakened in any way, this predisposes them to bacterial infection.

Many of the chronic disorders of the urinary system have been traced to tonsillitis, diphtheria, scarlet fever, and other diseases. It is very important that the kidneys be kept in normal functioning condition with sufficient water consumption. Insufficient water increases the specific gravity of the excretion, thus increasing the work of the excretory system, and leads to irritation and inflammation.

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