The genitourinary system is the collection of organs and tissues that are responsible for the elimination of waste products produced by metabolism and for human reproduction. These two functions of the body are often grouped together as the organs are interconnected. The organs and tissues of excretion and reproduction are lined with mucous membranes that are exposed to the outside environment The genitourinary system uses physical, chemical, and immunological defenses to protect against pathogens. Genitourinary system infections range from acute infections with minor symptoms to chronic infections that can spread to other tissues and cause severe damage. Urinary tract infections are relatively common, caused by bacteria or parasites, and are readily treatable. Sexually transmitted bacterial, viral, and protozoan infections are also responsible for many genitourinary system diseases.
At A Glance
- The genitourinary system is the collection of organs and tissues that allows for the elimination of metabolic wastes and human reproduction and possesses multiple layers of defense that protect from infection.
- In healthy individuals the genitourinary system is largely sterile with the exception of the vagina, which hosts several lactic-acid-producing bacteria, typically from the genus Lactobacillus.
- When pathogens, typically bacteria or fungi, evade the natural defenses of the urinary tract, they can cause urinary tract infections (UTIs) such as cystitis, schistosomiasis, and leptospirosis.
Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate gland, which can be acute, lasting only a few days or weeks, or chronic, lasting until treated.
- Urinary tract infections can be acquired through three main routes: community-acquired UTIs, catheter-acquired UTIs, and infections resulting from changes in the urinary tract microbiota.
Viruses most commonly cause urinary tract infections in immunocompromised individuals.
- Gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis are common sexually transmitted diseases caused by bacteria, and while all three are readily treatable, they can also lead to more serious conditions.
- Herpes simplex virus, human papillomavirus, and human immunodeficiency virus are spread through sexual contact, are carried by their host for life, and cause incurable diseases.
Inflammation of the vaginal mucosa is most commonly caused by a native yeast, Candida albicans, of the vaginal microflora that opportunistically grows in excess when other native flora are disrupted.
- The protozoan Trichomonas vaginalis is spread through sexual contact and can cause vaginitis in women and urethritis in men.