The Excretory System

The function of the excretory system is to eliminate or excrete metabolic wastes and undigested food from our body. The organs of the excretory system are the kidneys, liver, skin, large intestines, and lungs.

The kidneys excrete water and other wastes through the process of urination.

2. The liver discharges bile through the intestines and urea through the kidneys. 3. The skin eliminates water and heat through the process of perspiration. 4. The large intestine discharges food wastes through the process of defecation. 5. The lungs exhale carbon dioxide and water vapor through exhalation.

The Urinary System
The urinary system includes two kidneys, two ureters, the bladder, and a urethra. The kidneys are bean-shaped organs located at the back of the abdominal cavity. The kidneys are an efficient blood filtration system. The nephron is the functional filtration unit of the kidney. There are two to three million nephrons in each kidney. Each day the nephrons filter forty to fifty gallons of plasma from the blood. 99% of this fluid is reabsorbed into the blood stream. The kidneys excrete the remaining water and waste products through the ureters. The ureters are tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder, where urine is stored. The bladder is a hollow organ constructed of walls of elastic fibers and involuntary muscles that acts as a reservoir for the urine until it is excreted from the body. Voiding or emptying of the bladder is accomplished by a voluntary relaxation of a sphincter muscle at the mouth of the urethra and the involuntary contraction of the muscles of the bladder. As the bladder contracts, urine is forced through the urethra and out of the body in a process known as urination. A urinalysis is a chemical examination of the urine that is often part of the routine examination given by most physicians. The presence of white blood cells, blood, glucose, or other chemicals in the urine may be an indication of metabolic imbalance, infection, or numerous other conditions. Normal, healthy urine is a clear yellowish fluid. A change in the color of the urine, such as a reddish or brownish color, may indicate infection or other problems. The kidneys also function to maintain the body’s water balance. Another function of the kidneys is the production of the hormone renin, which acts to regulate blood pressure. When the blood pressure is low, the kidneys are stimulated to release more renin into the bloodstream, which causes blood vessels to contract, thereby raising the blood pressure.

The Liver
The liver is the largest gland in the body. The liver performs many of the body's chemical functions. The liver neutralizes or detoxifies toxic substances that may have been absorbed from the intestines such as alcohol, food additives, and drugs. The main excretory function of the liver is the formation of urea, which is returned to the blood stream to be excreted by the kidneys. The liver also produces and excretes bile through the intestines.

Questions for Discussion and Review: “The Excretory System”
1. What is the function of the excretory system?

2. What is urination? 3. How does the liver function as an excretory organ? 4. How does the skin function as an excretory organ? 5. How does the large intestine function as an excretory organ? 6. How do the lungs function as an excretory organ? 7. What organs compose the urinary system? 8. What are the kidneys? 9. How many kidneys does a normal person have? 10. What is a nephron? 11. What is the function of the ureters? 12. What is the function of the bladder? 13. How many ureters does a normal person have? 14. What is the function of the urethra? 15. What is a urinalysis? 16. What is the main excretory function of the liver?


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