Urologist: When should you visit one and why?


Last Updated October 11th, 2019

How does a urologist help you?

A surgical specialist who treats problems related to the urinary tract and the male reproductive system is called urologist.  Some of the important organs fall under this category and include the kidney, bladder, prostate, urethra, penis, testes, and their associated glands.  Your doctor would recommend you to visit a urologist if you are facing problems with the above-mentioned organs.

There is a misconception that this specialty is only related to men, which is not exactly correct.  Both men and women face problems with urinary tract infection and kidney problems.  These problems need guidance from a urologist.  The differentiation comes when the problem is related to the reproductive system.  In the case of the male reproductive system, a urologist is required and in the case of the female reproductive system, a gynecologist is required.

It should be noted that you need to first become a qualified doctor and then specialize in the field of urology to become a urologist.  Once a doctor has a broad knowledge about urology, he or she becomes a specialist in that field and may even perform surgeries if needed.

What is Urology?

Urology is a field of study that involves the urinary tract.  Doctors who specialize in this field are called urologist.  The urinary tract consists of ureters, urinary bladder, urethra, and the adrenal glands.  A urologist treats beyond the urinary tract when it is related to the male reproductive system.

This may include problems with the testes, vas deferens, epididymis, prostate, and the penis.  Some of the health conditions covered under this field include urinary tract infection, prostate enlargement, bladder cancer, kidney stones, prostate cancer, and stress incontinence.  Other specialists such as an oncologist and radiotherapists get involved when the medical condition is related to cancer.  A consultation with the nephrologist would be required if the problem involves the kidneys.

How does one become a urologist?

Postgraduate training for five years is required to become a specialist in urology.  The course is divided into three parts where you will be practicing general surgery for a period of 12 months, you would spend 36 months in clinical urology, and the remaining 12 months are spent practicing both general surgery and clinical urology together.  You can pursue additional specializations after completing your post graduation in urology and some of them are discussed below.

Endourology

A urologist specializes in performing urological procedures with the help of endoscopies.  This type of surgery is widely used in the modern day as it involves a minimally invasive surgical procedure.  During this procedure, a thin and flexible tube is inserted into the rectum with a light source and camera to perform the surgery.

Urologic oncology

Specializing in treating urologic malignancies related to the kidney, bladder, prostate, testes, penis, and the adrenal glands.

Neurourology

This field involves the innervation of the genitourinary system.  Multiple health conditions may lead to abnormality in the genitourinary system.  Some of these health conditions include stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, as well as spinal cord injuries.

Andrology

Erectile dysfunction, infertility, problems with ejaculation, and vasectomy reversal are some of the health conditions that are specialized in this field.

Pediatric Urology

Anatomical abnormalities related to the pediatric genitourinary is covered under this specialization.  Some of the common problems related to pediatric genitourinary include undescended testes, vesicoureteral reflux, and underdeveloped genitalia.

When to visit a urologist?

A urologist can treat not only genitourinary problems of both men and women but also can treat various problems related to the male reproductive system.  Some of the medical conditions that require the services of a urology specialist include:

Urinary tract infections

This is the most common genitourinary health condition that requires urology expertise.  Urinary tract infections are a result of bacterial infections.  Unhealthy hygiene is considered the biggest cause of urinary tract infection.  According to the estimates, women seem to be more commonly affected than men due to anatomy.  Untreated urinary tract infection can even affect the kidney and create more severe complications.

Blood in urine

You may experience blood in the urine due to various reasons.  Urinary tract infection is one of the most common causes of blood in the urine.  Blood in the urine related to urinary tract infection occurs only when the infection is spread to the kidneys.  On the other hand, kidney stones can cause blood in the urine.  When the stones migrate from the kidney to the bladder, the wall of the ureters can become damaged due to the passage of stone leading to blood in the urine.

Bladder control problems

Bladder control problems or urinary incontinence is a condition where you do not have a control on your urine.  Pregnancy and other anatomical abnormalities can cause this problem in women.  A urologist is the one who can treat this condition.

Male infertility

Around 7% of the world male population face this problem.  It is a condition where a man is unable to make a woman conceive.  Semen production is considered to be one of the important factors but may also occur due to other problems.  Testicular cancer which has a low prognosis can also cause male infertility.  Varicocele, which is an enlargement of the vein beneath the penis can also cause male infertility.  A consult with a urological specialist is required to treat this condition.

Erectile dysfunction

A medical condition where a man is unable to sustain an erection to participate in sexual intercourse.  Majority of men avoid a medical consult for this condition since they feel embarrassed to reveal this out.  This may occur due to an underlying medical condition or may be related to a more serious problem.  It is always advisable to consult your doctor who could arrange a consult without a urologist to treat this condition.

Kidney damage

Kidney disease can damage your kidney and can lead to several other complications.  Damage to the kidneys can cause an increase in the blood pressure, lead to ankle swelling due to fluid build up, etc.  This can ultimately lead to kidney failure.  A renal transplant would be required in such a scenario.

Bladder prolapse

This is a medical condition where the urinary bladder stretches into the vagina.  Some of the symptoms include constant pain and pressure in the bladder, feeling of not emptying the bladder fully, as well as increased frequency.

Enlarged prostate

Around one in three men are affected with an enlarged prostate and medically termed as benign prostatic hyperplasia.  You may experience a slow stream which is not continuous.  If this condition is not treated, it can lead to other complications affecting other organs including the kidneys, bladder, etc.

Peyronie’s disease

A medical condition where the penis becomes curved during erection.  This is caused when tissue grows beneath the penis making it bend.  This condition can lead to problems with intercourse and experience pain when the penis is erect.

Kidney stones

A collection of minerals and salt inside the kidney become solidified and is called kidney stone.  Kidney stones generally do not cause problems when they stay in the kidney.  Once they travel from the kidney to the bladder through the ureters, they cause excruciating pain and may vary in intensity which is determined by the size of the stone.  A kidney stone may get stuck in the middle of the ureter and cause obstruction leading to hydronephrosis where a person may feel nausea and vomiting.

Prostatitis

The prostate may become infected and inflamed leading to painful urination.  This can be acute or a chronic problem and needs immediate medical attention.

Undescended Testes

The testes generally get descended into the scrotum before birth.  In certain conditions, one or both testes do not descend which may cause pain and discomfort.  It may lead to problems with sperm production at a later stage.

Urethral Stricture

The ureter is the tube that connects the kidney and the bladder.  The width of the ureter is about 3 to 4 mm which is sufficient for the urine to flow.  Infection and inflammation can cause narrowing of the ureter called urethral stricture.  Painful urination is one of the symptoms of urethral stricture.

Tests and procedures performed during a urological exam

The following are the common urological tests and procedures that are performed to diagnose the symptoms.

  • Renal/abdominal ultrasound – Abdominal or renal ultrasound is undertaken to examine the internal organs such as kidneys and bladder. It is helpful to determine where the kidney stone is located or other problems related to the kidneys and the bladder.
  • CT scan – Computerized tomography scan is done to produce images within the body. It is helpful to find any tumor or other abnormality in the kidney or bladder.
  • Cystoscopy – This procedure is done with the help of cystoscope. A flexible fiber-optic tube is inserted through a natural opening in the body to analyze the urethra for any abnormalities.
  • Cytology – It is a lab test performed under the microscope to study the cells in a urine sample.
  • Intravenous Pyelogram – A dye is injected in the genitourinary tract to obtain images of the upper urinary tract, ureter, and the kidneys.
  • Prostate Biopsy – A sample of the prostate gland is obtained to determine for the presence of cancer in the tissues.

Urological problems affecting women

Incontinence:  The most common problem faced by women worldwide.  It has been estimated that around 17% of women worldwide are affected with moderate to severe incontinence.  Pelvic floor exercises are the best remedy for urine incontinence.  It is also advised to avoid caffeine as it is considered a trigger.  Surgical options are considered for persistent problems.

Overactive bladder

This is considered a side effect of old age.  It is also associated with diet and use of diuretic medications.  There is no particular cause to pinpoint how it occurs.  Dietary changes followed by physical therapy and medications can help bring down the symptoms.  Surgical options are considered for implantation of bladder pacemaker.

Urinary tract infection

This condition affects mainly women than men.  Unhealthy hygiene is considered the biggest cause of urinary tract infection.  Doctors suggest washing from front to back to avoid urinary tract infections.

Pelvic floor dysfunction

The pelvic floor muscles support the vagina, bladder, and rectum.  This muscle can become weak after childbirth and particularly with multiple childbirths.  Physical therapy and medications can help with this problem.

Pelvic organ prolapse

A weak pelvic floor muscle can cause the adjacent organs to move out of place.  You could feel a bulge in the vagina as the first sign of symptom.  A pessary is inserted into the vagina to manage this problem by supporting the pelvic floor.

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