Angie's LIST Guide to
What is urology?
Urology involves the treatment of conditions involving the male and female urinary tract and the male reproductive organs.
One main topic of urology involves the kidneys, those tiny organs located near the rib cage. Although they're small, your kidneys are responsible for stabilizing many substances in your body. The overall health of bones and blood cells relies on the hormones produced by the kidneys.
A urologist also treats the adrenal glands, which are equally small, but equally powerful. Located just above the kidneys, the adrenal glands produce steroids and other hormones that your body uses to regulate kidney function, blood pressure and sexual functions.
Pediatrics, gynecology and internal medicine could all be involved when diagnosing, treating and managing patients with disorders in any of these areas. A urologist also specifically treats dysfunction of the male reproductive organs such as testes, prostate and penis.
Urology involves seven specialty areas: pediatric, oncology, renal transplantation, male infertility, urinary tract stones, female urology and neurouology.
A pediatrician may refer boys to a pediatric urology department to assess common problems unique to boys such as undescended testicles and structural problems with the penis. Pediatric urologists also address problems related to incontinence in children of both sexes.
Oncology is part of urology when the issue involves cancer in the kidneys, prostate or bladder. Urological cancer care includes experimental treatment options, surgery and ongoing research in the field.
Another subspecialty focuses on renal transplantation. Kidney failure can require dialysis or kidney transplant surgery for a patient to stay alive.
Painful urinary tract stones can affect anyone. These hard masses form in the urinary tract and can cause pain, bleeding, obstruction of the flow of urine or an infection.
Urologists can also specialize in the treatment of male infertility, diagnosing and treating cases of low sperm production or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm.
The specialty of female urology deals with the diseases in a woman's body when it relates to the bladder, kidneys or urinary tract.
When complications arise after a medical crisis — such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease or spinal cord injury — neurourology plays an important role in treating nervous system diseases and disorders that affect the urinary system.
Common reasons to see a urologist
Urology specialists treat some common issues and urinary tract problems. If your problem requires surgery, a urologist could use reconstructive surgery or, the less invasive laparoscopic surgery, which eliminates the need for a large incision and can shorten the time spent in recovery.
Urology problems are quite common. One in 10 American adults, more than 20 million, have some level of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prostate cancer affects one out of six men, with the average age at time of diagnosis as 67 years old.
Whenever you're experiencing pain, discomfort or lack of proper function in your bladder, urethra and kidneys, you should make an appointment to see a doctor. The following problems are common reasons for consulting a urologist:
Urologists treat kidney stones, often a painful problem. These hard masses can form due to excess calcium or acidic urine. Physicians may treat them with a technique that shatters the mass with shock waves outside the body (called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy), which makes it easier to pass. If this doesn't work, you might require urology surgery.
Urology specialists treat overactive bladder, also known as urge incontinence, which affects 16 percent of men and 17 percent of women. Treatment usually involves medication, special exercises or, in rare cases, surgery.
Issues such as an enlarged prostate are often the driving force behind consulting a urologist. Enlarged prostate causes a frequent need to urinate, which in turn can disrupt a man's ability to sleep.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are bacterial infections, contributing to the feeling of general malaise, fever and painful burning when urinating. UTIs are usually treated with antibiotics, although severe cases sometimes require hospitalization.
Sexual dysfunction is also a part of this branch of the medical field. Intervention could be as simple as suggestions to improve diet and lifestyle or involve medication or a surgical procedure.
Finding the right urologist
If you know that you'll need the services of a urologist or urology clinic, contact your health insurance company to make sure that this medical specialty is covered. Depending on your policy, you may need a referral from your primary care physician in order for your policy to pay for treatment.
Read through the listing of urologists or urology clinics in the provider directory available from your health insurance company, and carefully research the doctors you are considering. Verify their qualifications, education, continuing education, accepted insurance plans and affiliated hospitals by consulting Angie's List, where you can also see member reviews and rankings.