Healthcare has advanced significantly in the last few decades. Today, a doctor can refer to many healthcare professionals.
A general practitioner is only one of the doctors that a person may see when they have a health-related problem.
When something specific is wrong, the patient will often be referred to a specialist. There are different types of specialists, with a urologist only being one example.
Patients who are referred to a urologist should understand what this means. We will consider what a urologist is in this post. We also take a closer look at urology as a profession. Furthermore, this post discusses the conditions that a urologist can treat.
What Is A Urologist?
A urologist is a type of doctor. These healthcare professionals are most often referred to as specialists. The reason for this is due to the fact that a urologist focuses on a specific area of healthcare. This would be a field known as urology.
Men and women can be referred to a urologist. When a woman is referred to a urologist, it generally means the female patient has a problem affecting her urinary system.
With men, a referral to a urologist can also mean problems with the patient’s urinary system. Additionally, there are other conditions that a urologist can also treat in men. This includes problems that affect the male reproductive tract. Thus, for men, a urologist may be consulted for issues with the urinary tract and with the reproductive system.
There are different types of urologists. Pediatric urologists, for example, will solely focus on providing medical treatment to children with urinary problems.
What Is Urology?
Urology is the term used to refer to the field in which urologists specialize. There are a few urologists who specialize in general urologic diseases. Others, however, may preferably have a more specific sub-field that they focus on. This may include1:
- Female urology
- Male infertility
- Urologic oncology
- Pediatric urology
- Renal transplant subspecialty
- Calculi subspecialty
When the specific problem is unclear, a patient may be referred to a general urologist. The patient may also be referred to a urologist based on their age or gender. A woman will be referred to a women’s health specialist, for example.
What Are The Education And Training Requirements?
Urologists require relatively long-term training before they can step into this profession. The first step is to obtain a college degree. This program takes four years for the student to complete. It must be completed at an appropriate medical school.
After the students graduate from medical school, they need to undergo medical training. This is done at a hospital. The training lasts for up to five years. The training provided by the hospital is often referred to as a residency.
The student will work alongside urologists who have been specializing in the field for several years. Here, the student learns more about urology. The student will also gain surgical skills while in the residency program.
In some cases, up to two years of additional training is obtained by the student. In such a case, a program known as a fellowship is used.
Once all training is done, a specialty certification examination is performed by the student. The specialty exam will test their skills as a urologist. Upon completion of the exam, the American Board of Urology will provide an official certification to the student2.
Which Conditions Do Urologists Treat?
Urologists can assist in the treatment of various conditions. All conditions treated by these professionals affect the urinary system in the patient. In men, additional conditions may be treatable by a urologist.
In terms of men’s health, the following conditions may be treated by a urologist:
- Enlarged prostate (Benign prostatic hyperplasia)
- Overactive bladder
- Kidney disease
- Kidney stones
- Urinary tract infections
- Interstitial cystitis
Men often turn to a urologist for sexual dysfunction too. Additionally, these specialists are also able to assist in the treatment of certain cancers3. These include cancers that affect the following body parts:
Treatments for female patients differ somewhat. A urologist can also assist in treating certain cancers in the urinary tract among women. They can also be consulted by women for kidney stones and UTIs. Furthermore, a urologist can help a woman with urinary incontinence.
Among children, a urologist is often considered to help with bedwetting. Problems affecting the urinary tract can also be treated at an early stage. Furthermore, young boys with undescended testicles may also be referred to a pediatric urologist.
What Procedures Do Urologists Perform?
There are a few procedures that a urologist can perform or request—the specific procedures depending on the patient. The urologist will ask the patient about the symptoms that they are experiencing. This will allow the urologist to consider the specific condition that might be to blame.
A urologist may request imaging tests to be done. This could include CT scans, ultrasounds, and MRI scans. These tests allow the urologist to get a better picture of the patient’s urinary tract.
A cystogram is sometimes ordered; there is a problem with the bladder. Additionally, a cystoscopy can also be performed by a urologist.
Other procedures that a urologist may perform include:
- The urologist may collect a urine sample. They will analyze the urine sample. This is important if an infection is suspected. Analyzing the urine sample allows the urologist to detect bacteria. It can help to establish the cause behind the infection.
- A post-void residual urine test can be performed by a urologist. This allows the urologist to determine how quickly urine leaves the body when the patient urinates. The test also provides details on the amount of urine that remains in the bladder. It can be helpful in cases where a patient does not fully empty their bladder.
- Urodynamic testing can be performed by a urologist too. This test the pressure in the bladder. It also looks at the volume inside the patient’s bladder.
There are a few surgical procedures that a urologist can perform too. This includes biopsies4 and a cystectomy. Kidney transplant and extracorporeal shock-wave lithotripsy are also performed by a urologist.
When Should You See A Urologist?
Mild urinary issues can sometimes be treated by a general practitioner. When the treatment provided does not yield effective results, the doctor may refer the patient to a urologist.
Sometimes, a general practitioner may also not have the skills to treat a specific condition. In such a case, the practitioner may refer the patient to a urologist too.
There are also cases where the patient should be referred to as multiple specialists. A man with prostate cancer might be advised to see a urologist. Additionally, he may also be referred to an oncologist.
Patients should also consider certain symptoms. This may signal that they should consider making an appointment with a urologist themselves. In men, the following should be considered a reason to be concerned:
- Lump that grows on the testicle
- A reduction in libido
- Poor erectile function/ erectile dysfunction
- Weak flow of urine
- Trouble with urination
- Voiding dysfunction
- Urine leakage
- Urine with blood (hematuria)
- Urge to urinate
- Urinary tract infections utis
- Pelvic pain or pain in the side or lower back
When referred to a urologist, it generally means there is something wrong with the patient’s urinary system. The urologist will be able to assist in the diagnosis of certain urinary problems. Both men and women can seek the assistance of a urologist. In men, conditions affecting the reproductive tract can also be treated by a urologist.