What Is a Urologist and What Does This Specialist Do?

Treating Diseases of the Urinary Tract and Male Reproductive Organs

Doctor explaining urological problems
Doctor explaining urological problems. Getty/E+/Jan-Otto

Urology is health care focused on the urinary tract. A urologist is a physician who has had specialty training to diagnose and treat diseases of the male and female urinary tracts, as well as of the male reproductive organs. Learn more about this specialty and how your urologist works as part of your healthcare team.

Why You May See a Urologist

You may see a urologist if you have any condition that affects the kidneys, ureters, bladder, urethra, penis, testes, scrotum, or prostate.

Urologists treat many types of diseases including prostate cancer. They commonly perform surgery on prostate cancer patients (including radical prostatectomy). But they have many other subspecialties and can treat patients of any age or gender. Everybody has a urinary tract and many conditions affect it, including birth defects, metabolic conditions, and diabetes.

Other types of cancer that are found in the urinary system are bladder cancer and kidney cancer. Common urologic conditions include urinary tract infection, overactive bladder, urinary incontinence, bladder prolapse, kidney stones, hematuria (blood in the urine), erectile dysfunction, and low testosterone

How a Doctor Becomes a Urologist

Urologists complete four years of medical school, then at least four to five years of residency training before working independently. Urology is a surgical specialty but it has a wider scope than surgery because of the variety of clinical problems associated with the urinary system and male sex organs.

A urologist also uses knowledge of internal medicine, pediatrics, gynecology, and other specialties.

A urologist may also practice in a subspecialty area. These are the seven recognized by the American Urological Association:

  1. Pediatric Urology
  2. Urologic Oncology (cancer)
  3. Renal Transplantation
  4. Male Infertility
  1. Calculi (urinary tract stones)
  2. Female Urology (urinary incontinence and pelvic outlet relaxation disorders)
  3. Neurourology (voiding disorders, urodynamic evaluation of patients and erectile dysfunction or impotence).

Prostate Cancer

The treatment of malignant disease is a very large portion of urologic practice. Newer diagnostic methods for the detection of prostate cancer are constantly being developed. It is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer, especially in an aging male population, keep up demand for urologists.

The Changing Face of Urology

Technology and new ways of performing procedures have been rapidly changing many aspects of urology. The treatment of urinary tract stones by endoscopic surgery and extracorporeal lithotriptors has revolutionized how urologists treat this condition. Urologists must keep up their skills and experience using the surgical microscope and new applications for lasers. Laparoscopic surgery has changed many urologic operations which had been done by open surgery in the past. This is also known as minimally invasive surgery. The development of new cancer chemotherapy drugs has significantly altered treatment for some urologic cancers.

The bottom line is that urologists are in a rapidly changing specialty area combining new knowledge of surgical techniques and internal medicine, requiring active involvement in continuing education. For the patient, this can mean that you may want to select a urologist who has both experience and training in the newer techniques and procedures.

Source:

American Urological Association. Why Urology? http://www.auanet.org/about-us/why-urology.

Common Conditions. Urology Care Foundation. http://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions?q=&filters=105|.

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