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March 27, 2009
In this article I review normal male and female genital anatomy. A complete understanding of this anatomy will help in understanding how sexually transmitted diseases occur and where the symptoms may be noticed.
Both men and women have bladders and lymph nodes, and these parts of the anatomy can be affected by STDs. I begin by describing these structures and then move on to the genital area, where men and women look very different from each other.
The bladder is where urine is stored. Urine is made in the kidneys and travels to the bladder through the ureters. Because in women the opening of the urethra is so close to the openings of the vagina and the anus, bladder infections are not uncommon in women. Men, on the other hand, rarely get bladder infections because there is a large distance between the urethra and the anal area. Symptoms usually associated with a bladder infection, such as burning with urination, may also be caused by sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia or herpes.
The lymph nodes are part of the immune system and are found throughout the body. The immune system is the body’s defense against foreign invasions of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, as well as cancer cells, and the lymph nodes are where the cells of the immune system congregate as they flow throughout the body. People have lymph nodes in the neck, under the arms, and in the groin, among other places. The lymph nodes usually cannot be felt with the fingers (in medical language, they are “not palpable”), or else they are palpable but are very small. They can become swollen in response to infection or sometimes from invasion with cancer cells. The lymph nodes that swell with a genital infection are located in the groin. Lymph node swelling in the groin may be the only indication that a person has a genital infection.
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