Urology is the specialty of medicine that focuses on the urinary tract—the bladder, kidney, urethra, and associated organs—and the male reproductive organs like the testes, prostate and penis. Because urologists specialize in male sexual organs—among other things—it’s a common misconception that the specialty is simply the male counterpart to a gynecologist. However, this is a false assumption that could prevent many women from receiving the most qualified care for many urinary tract issues.
Men and women can benefit in a variety of ways from the specialized care a urologist can provide. To help understand the scope of their care, here are five common reasons it might be a good idea to make an appointment with a urologist in your area today.
1) Because your primary care physician tells you to
This one may seem like a no brainer, but it’s overlooked enough that it bears pointing out. One of the key responsibilities of your primary care physician (PCP) is to coordinate your care among different specialties. Whenever a patient has an issue that requires more specialized expertise, it is the responsibility of the PCP to make recommendations of which specialists to visit and to help coordinate your care among the various specialties.
If your PCP recommends that you visit a urologist, it’s clear that they think there’s an issue beyond their typical scope. So, it’s important to follow that recommendation. In many cases, your PCP’s office may make the appointment with a urologist for you. In other cases, they may leave that up to you. Regardless, it’s important to get the appointment scheduled and stick to it even if the symptoms seem to subside.
2) When you’re having recurrent urinary tract infections
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that occurs in any of the organs associated with the urinary system. Depending on where the UTI specifically occurs, they can produce symptoms like foul smelling or discolored urine, pain in the lower stomach or back, an increased need to urinate, or pain during urination. UTIs aren’t that uncommon in women—although they shouldn’t occur frequently—and, in men, they’re relatively rare, especially before the age of 50.
While a single UTI is probably not cause to see a specialist, multiple UTIs in a brief time span may warrant the need to make a urology appointment. A urologist will be able to more accurately pinpoint where in the urinary tract the infection is occurring and work to find the root cause of the recurrent infections. If you’ve suffered from multiple UTIs, your urologist can also make sure your frequent and repeat infections haven’t permanently damaged your urinary system – which could be amplifying your symptoms.
3) If you’re a male and notice any change in your testes
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men between the ages of 20-39 years old. That’s why it’s important for men to familiarize themselves with their anatomy so that they can easily identify any changes that may signal a serious condition.
Testicular cancer is extremely curable, especially if caught early. That’s why if you notice any lumps or bumps on your testicles it’s vital to make an appointment with a urologist who can examine you further.
There are other changes to the testes that aren’t signs of cancer that still should be examined by a urologist. Pain, swelling, or changes in the texture of the testes are all symptoms that merit further examination. When making an appointment with a urologist, be sure to explain the symptoms in detail on the phone—some symptoms are more urgent than others and may necessitate being seen sooner than others. If you’re having trouble being seen quickly, you can often work with your PCP who can help you assess the urgency and, if needed, work with a urologist to get you scheduled sooner rather than later.
4) When your urinary habits suddenly change
Everyone is different, and urination frequency depends on a wide variety of factors. On average, most people urinate between 7-10 times a day. If you’ve found that you always go more or less frequently than average, that’s not necessarily cause for concern. However, if you suddenly find yourself having to go significantly more or less than you used to, then it may be time to see a urologist.
It’s also important to consider more than just frequency. Other urination related changes to look for include:
- A change in the effort required for urination (a need to “push” harder)
- A frequent sensation or feeling the need to urinate, with little or no urine produced
- A harder time controlling urination: accidental urination, or a harder time stopping once started
Each of these symptoms could be signs of conditions that a urologist is best qualified to diagnose and treat.
5) If you’re a man over the age of 40
Once men approach the age of 40, the risk for a variety of urological diseases increases. As a specialist in both urinary systems and the male reproductive system, urologists screen men for a variety of these diseases and talk with you about your family history, diet, lifestyle and other risk factors to consider in your overall health.
Once you hit 40, it’s important to get screened, even without symptoms, so that you and your urologist can understand what’s normal for your body. Even slight changes from a baseline can signal that something may need closer attention.
At 40, you should also begin to undergo regular prostate screenings to check for inflammation and other signs of cancer. As you age, the risk for sexual dysfunction also increases and can be assessed and treated by a urologist.
How to find a urologist
When choosing any doctor there are a number of considerations to keep in mind: location, price and quality are key factors that determine the overall satisfaction you’ll have with your urologist. Use HealthCost to search for a urologist in a specific area, find a price that works for your budget and review quality ratings from other patients.