The genitourinary system, also called the “urogenital system,” consists of the urinary and reproductive systems.

The genitourinary system refers to the urinary and reproductive systems.

In people assigned male at birth (AMAB), for example, urine is produced by the bladder, and semen is produced by the testes. Both fluids exit the body through the urethra.

Conditions that affect one system can also affect the other. For instance, inflammation of the prostate or uterus can affect urination.

The genitourinary system is made up of the urinary system and the reproductive system.

The urinary system includes:

  • Kidneys: These two organs filter blood, remove waste, balance fluids, and produce urine.
  • Ureters: These thin tubes carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.
  • Bladder: This expanding, balloon-shaped organ in the pelvis holds urine until it’s emptied.
  • Urethra: This tube at the bottom of the bladder allows urine to exit the body.

In AMAB folks, the reproductive system includes the:

  • Penis: This organ contains sponge-like tissues that fill with blood during sexual arousal, which creates an erection to allow for penetration during sex. The head of the penis (glans) houses the urethra, which is where urine and semen exit the body.
  • Scrotum: This pouch-like sac of skin is located behind the penis and contains the testicles.
  • Testicles: Also called the “testes,” these oval organs make the hormone testosterone and produce sperm.
  • Epididymis: This long coiled tube at the back of each testicle carries and stores the sperm until maturity before releasing it into the vas deferens.
  • Vas deferens: This long muscular tube transports mature sperm to the urethra for ejaculation.
  • Ejaculatory ducts: These ducts sit on either side of the prostate and are created where the seminal vesicles merge with the vas deferens.
  • Seminal vesicles: These pouches are attached to the vas deferens at the base of the bladder and make a fluid that helps with sperm motility.
  • Prostate: This walnut-sized gland sits below the bladder, in front of the rectum, and releases a fluid that nourishes sperm.
  • Bulbourethral glands: Also called “Cowper’s glands,” these tiny glands are on either side of the urethra. The bulbourethral glands produce a clear, slippery fluid that provides lubrication and neutralizes acidity from residual urine in the urethra.

In people assigned female at birth (AFAB), the reproductive system includes the:

  • Labia majora: The outer lips, where pubic hair grows, contain sweat and oil glands and protect the other external reproductive organs.
  • Labia minora: These inner lips surround the opening to the vagina and urethra.
  • Clitoris glans: The clitoris glans, which sit where the two labia meet, are covered by a nerve-rich hood of skin called the “prepuce” that’s very sensitive to stimulation.
  • Vaginal opening: This opening is the location of vaginal penetration and is the opening through which menstrual blood and babies exit the body.
  • Vagina: This muscular canal is lined with mucous membranes that provide moisture and lubrication. The vagina connects the cervix to the outside of the body.
  • Cervix: The cervix is like a gatekeeper to the uterus. A hole in the center allows menstrual blood to exit during menstruation and sperm to enter during intercourse. The cervix dilates during vaginal childbirth but remains otherwise closed to prevent objects, such as sex toys or tampons, from entering too far into the body.
  • Uterus: This hollow organ holds a fetus during pregnancy.
  • Ovaries: These small glands sit on either side of the uterus and produce hormones and eggs.
  • Fallopian tubes: These tubes, which are attached to the upper part of the uterus, allow the egg to travel from the ovaries to the uterus.

Several conditions can affect the urinary tract. Some are specific to male anatomy, some are congenital abnormalities that a person is born with, and others develop later in life.

Some genitourinary conditions that can affect anyone include:

Some genitourinary conditions only affect people with male anatomy:

Some genitourinary conditions only affect people with female anatomy:

Symptoms of genitourinary conditions may vary depending on the cause.

Some common symptoms include:

After considering your medical history and symptoms, a healthcare professional may use one or more of the following tests to help diagnose or rule out genitourinary conditions:

Here are some tips that can help genitourinary health.

Maintain a moderate weight

Excess weight, especially around the belly, has been found to reduce kidney function in a few ways.

It may affect the nervous system, triggering a release of hormones that can increase your blood pressure and cause your body to retain sodium.

Excess weight can also make it difficult to remove excess sugar from your blood, which increases your risk of diabetes.

It also increases inflammation, which can impair kidney function and increase your risk of numerous diseases, including heart disease and some urogenital cancers including kidney, ovarian, endometrial, and prostate cancers.

Stay hydrated

Drinking enough water is crucial to keep your kidneys functioning and to help them to remove toxins from your body.

Limit or quit smoking cigarettes

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking may cause a few cancers in the genitourinary system, including kidney, bladder, and cervical cancer.

Smoking may also cause ED, damage sperm DNA, and is associated with reduced fertility.

Avoid extra salt

Too much salt in your diet may cause your kidneys to hang onto more water and affect kidney function. Excess salt may also increase your blood pressure. The recommended daily value is under 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.

Exercise regularly

Even just 20 minutes of exercise a day may help reduce blood pressure. Exercise can also reduce stress and assist with healthy weight loss.

Use medications with caution

Certain over-the-counter medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen, can cause kidney damage when taken regularly.

Talk with a healthcare professional to find alternatives if you have a condition that requires pain management.

Prevent UTIs

Drinking a lot of water, peeing after sexual activity, and practicing healthy hygiene habits, such as wiping from front to back, can help prevent UTIs.

Use barrier methods during sex

Using a condom or other barrier method can help prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, which can cause precancerous changes and lead to cervical or penile cancer.

Keep up with screening

Staying on top of regular medical exams is an important part of keeping your genitourinary system and the rest of your body healthy.

Consult with a healthcare professional about the following screening tests based on your individual risk factors:

The genitourinary system combines the many working parts of the urinary and reproductive systems, which are closely connected.

Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.