Urethral sphincter

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Overview

The urethral sphincter is a collective name for the muscles used to control the flow of urine from the urinary bladder. These muscles surround the urethra, so that when they contract, the urethra is closed. The muscles originate at the pubic ramus with the insertion point at the median raphe. The function of the sphincter urethrae is controlled by the Pudendal nerve to constrict the urethra. There are actually two urethral sphincters in the human body:

  • The internal sphincter muscle of urethra: located at the bladder's proximal inferior end is the junction of the urethra with the urinary bladder. The muscle is made of smooth muscle, so therefore it is under involuntary control. This is the primary muscle for constricting the release of urine.
  • The external sphincter muscle of urethra: located at the bladder's distal inferior end is secondary sphincter to control the flow of urine through the urethra. Unlike the internal sphincter muscle, the external sphincter is made of skeletal muscle, so therefore it is under voluntary control. This is the secondary muscle to serve as backup.

Gender differences

Despite common misconceptions, human males do not have stronger urethral sphincter muscles than females, nor are there any noticeable capacity differences in the bladders. Anatomically, females have to urinate more frequently because their bladders share space with the uterus and vagina in the anterior wall, which causes the involuntary interior sphincter muscle to give off the nerve impulses more frequently even when the bladder is not at capacity. In males the bladder lies posteriorly against the rectum, where it does not share space with any reproductive organs.

Function

In addition to the internal and external sphincters, in males the urethra extends to the end of the penis, where it opens up to the outside.

Both sexes can use the levator ani, the voluntary muscle of the pelvic floor, to control urination. In females this muscle may be damaged, particularly by pregnancy, leading to weakness of the sphincter mechanism, and stress incontinence. Kegel exercises are a form of exercise intended to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. They are also known as Pelvic Floor Muscle Training.

de:Musculus urethralis



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