What Does a Urologist Treat?
Chances are, you’ve heard of a urologist before — but do you know what a urologist treats?
A urologist is a physician who specializes in diseases of the urinary tract for both men and women, as well as the male reproductive system. The urinary tract is responsible for creating, storing, and removing urine from the body. This system includes the kidneys, adrenal glands, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Urologists can also treat all parts of the male reproductive system, which includes the male testes, prostate, and penis.
If you’re wondering what a urologist treats, then we’re here to help. Here are the top 12 diseases and disorders that a urologist treats:
1. Prostate Cancer
The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system that produces most of the semen that carries sperm. Because prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among men in the United States, men need to be aware of potential symptoms, including dull pain in the lower pelvic area, frequent or painful urination, and blood in the urine or semen. A urologist will diagnose prostate cancer by performing a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA).
2. Kidney Cancer
Kidney cancer is a disease in which kidney cells become cancerous and grow out of control, forming a tumor. Kidney cancer is one of the most treatable and curable cancers when it is diagnosed early, so look out for symptoms such as blood in your urine and pain in your back or side that doesn’t go away. Although treatment depends greatly on the stage of the cancer, most cases require the kidney cancer to be removed surgically.
3. Bladder Cancer
Smokers put themselves at a higher risk for bladder cancer. In fact, smoking causes half of all bladder cancers in men and women. Pay particular attention to symptoms such as blood in the urine, painful urination, frequent urination, and pain in the abdominal area or lower back. Most bladder cancers are diagnosed at an early stage when the cancer is treatable. Treatments for bladder cancer include transurethral resection of the bladder tumor (TURBT), laser therapy, intravesical chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.
4. Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are hard mineral based masses that typically form in the kidneys, causing irritation or blockage. Common symptoms include severe lower back pain, blood in your urine, nausea, and urine with a foul odor that can look cloudy. Kidney stones can be quite painful, but in most cases, they are able to pass on their own without causing any damage. You may need nothing more than pain medication or to drink lots of water to pass a kidney stone; however, surgery might be required for severe cases.
5. Enlarged Prostate
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlarged prostate, is a common problem for aging men. A healthy prostate is important because it supports sperm nourishment and transport. Because of the prostate’s close proximity to the bladder, BPH can cause problems with urination such as frequent urges to urinate, dribbling, or inability to urinate. Tests for BPH include a digital rectal exam, blood and imaging tests, a urine flow study, and examination with a cystoscope.
6. Male and Female Incontinence
Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control, and can occur in both men and women. The severity of urinary incontinence ranges from occasional urine leakage when you cough or sneeze to having an urge to urinate that’s so sudden and strong you aren’t able to make it to the restroom in time. A temporary solution to incontinence is wearing absorbent products such as pads or adult diapers that are made to absorb urine leakage. Additionally, there are many ways a urologist can treat this condition, ranging from physical therapy to medications or even surgery.
If your prostate becomes swollen, tender, or inflamed, you may have prostatitis. Although prostatitis can be asymptomatic, many men will experience symptoms such as painful urination; pain in the lower back, abdomen, or pelvic area; fever; and chills. Prostatitis typically occurs when bacteria enters the prostate, but it can also be caused by a sexually transmitted infection, enlarged prostate, or recurrent bladder infection. Your urologist may prescribe antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, or alpha blockers to treat prostatitis.
8. Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the most common sex problem that men report to their doctors, and is defined as the inability to achieve or keep an erection that’s firm enough for sex. Erectile dysfunction most often occurs when blood flow to the penis is limited, but it can also be due to stress or emotional reasons. A urologist can offer a variety of treatments for erectile dysfunction including medications, external vacuum devices, and surgical procedures. If erectile dysfunction is affecting a man’s well-being or relationships, it should be treated.
9. Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
A UTI occurs when bacteria gets into your urine and travels up to your bladder. UTIs are very common, affecting about 40 percent of all women and 12 percent of all men at some point during their lifetime. UTI symptoms to look out for include painful or burning urination, a frequent need to urinate, cloudy or bloody urine, and abdominal pain. UTIs can be easily treated with antibiotics, but it is important to see a urologist if you have any symptoms to rule out any more serious medical problems.
10. Peyronie’s Disease
Though less common than some of the other urological diseases and disorders, Peyronie’s Disease affects middle-aged men by causing a formation of scar tissue along the penis. Though this scar tissue can’t be seen, it forces the penis to bend or arc when erect. Most men with Peyronie’s Disease can still have sex, but erections are painful due to the arced shape of the penis. This disease rarely goes away on its own, so see your urologist as soon as you notice signs or symptoms.
11. Male Infertility
Infertility affects approximately 1 in 6 couples trying to have children, and occurs when a couple isn’t able to conceive a child despite having frequent, unprotected sex for a year or more. Male infertility can be a result of low sperm production, abnormal sperm function, or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm. A urologist can diagnose the cause of male infertility and then offer various treatment options depending on what is causing it.
Though having a vasectomy doesn’t fit into the urinary tract disorder category, it is a very common reason for men to see a urologist. A vasectomy is a relatively simple procedure where the tubes in a male’s scrotum that carry sperm are cut or blocked to prevent sperm from leaving the body and causing pregnancy. A vasectomy is one of the most effective methods of birth control for couples who decide they no longer want to have children, and it can even be reversed if the couple changes their mind.
Your Appointment with the Urology Specialists of the Carolinas
These are just a few of the many diseases that a urologist treats. In fact, you don’t even need to have a medical issue to see a urologist — it’s a smart idea to schedule an annual physical exam to proactively monitor your urinary tract health.
If you would like more information about what a urologist treats, or you would just like a physical exam to check your urinary tract health, then contact Urology Specialists of the Carolinas today.
This content was originally published in August 2015 and was refreshed in December 2020.