Definition and Overview
Urology is a medical and surgical field of medicine that focuses on the treatment of diseases affecting the urinary tract of males and females, as well as the reproductive organs of males. It deals with all problems affecting the kidneys, ureters, bladder, urethra, adrenal glands, and the male reproductive system, which includes the testes, epididymis, prostate, penis, vas deferens, and seminal vesicles. Because the urinary system is in close proximity to the reproductive system, diseases of one tend to affect the other; such conditions are also called genitourinary conditions. This explains the wide range of diseases that fall under urology, such as urinary tract infections, prostatic hyperplasia, prostate cancer, kidney stones, and many more.
Diseases and conditions treated by Urologists
Urology is a highly extensive branch of medicine due to the large number of organs it is concerned with. Thus, most urologists take further specialization to focus on the diagnosis and treatment of narrower sub-fields or diseases, which are:
- Kidney stones and ureteral stones
- Kidney cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Penile cancer
- Urethral cancer
- Benign prostatic enlargement
- Urinary incontinence
- Overactive bladder
- Sexual dysfunction (or erectile dysfunction)
- Pelvic pain
- Urological infections
- Male infertility
- Genitourinary tract injuries
- Peyronie's disease
- Urethral injuries
These are just some of the most common urologic and kidney problems that can affect individuals. There is an even longer list of urologic and kidney diseases and symptoms that urologists can treat. There are also specialists who take further training, such as pediatric urologists, who are concerned with the following conditions affecting children.
- Pediatric kidney stones
- Undescended testicles
- Vesicoureteral reflux
Urologists use a wide range of treatments to relieve the various symptoms and provide treatment and long-term care for their patients. The exact combination of treatment procedures will depend on the specific health problem that the patient is experiencing. These treatment procedures include:
Cryotherapy – this refers to the use of fire or flame to burn affected tissues prior to cutting them off. This is a common procedure incorporated into treatment plans such as prostate cancer and kidney cancer.
Laparoscopic procedure – This is a minimally invasive procedure helps with the treatment of cancer of the bladder, kidney, or prostate. This procedure cuts the recovery time short and guarantees the best outcome.
Robotic radical cystectomy – This is the removal of the bladder as part of the treatment of bladder cancer.
Laparoscopic adrenalectomy – this is most useful for the removal of benign tumors
Transurethral resection – This refers to the vaporization of the prostate, which is often used in the treatment of prostate enlargement and bladder cancer.
Penile prosthesis insertion
- Penile reconstruction
- Robotic partial nephredoctomy or kidney surgery
- Uteroscopy - Also known as laser surgery, this is most commonly prescribed for the removal of kidney stones.
- Percutaneous stone surgery or PCNL
- Shock wave lithotripsy or SWL
- Hydrocele and spermatocele repair
- Vasectomy or vasectomy reversal
- Testicular torsion repair
- Brachytherapy or the implantation of radioactive seed
- Robotic radical prostatectomy
- Artificial implantation of a urinary sphincter – This is a common treatment procedure used for those who suffer urinary incontinence.
- Periurethral bulking
- Sacral nerve root stimulators
- Radiation therapy
When should you see a Urologist?
There are some warning signs that you should watch out for and should send you to an appointment with a urologist. These include:
Male infertility. Male individuals who are infertile should consult with a urologist given the fact that a certain percentage of male infertility is caused by testicular cancer. Usually, infertile males go straight to a fertility doctor, who is not trained in diagnosing testicular cancer.
Bloody urine. If you see blood in your urine, it is important to see a urologist as soon as possible. This is because bloody urine is an early sign of bladder cancer or cancer of the kidneys. A urologist may request for urine tests, a CT scan, and a cystoscopy to take a peek inside the bladder and check for the presence of tumors. You do not need to see blood in your urine more than once; one instance of having bloody urine should be enough for you to see a urologist.
Abnormal prostate exam results. Any abnormality in your prostate exam warrants consultation with a urologist. Most abnormalities in these exams may be from cancer, so it is important to detect them early to raise the cure rate. Men who are aged over 40 are advised to undergo a yearly exam to watch for signs of prostate cancer, which is currently one of the most common cancers that affect older men.
Elevated Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) levels. If your PSA levels are higher than normal, go straight to a urologist. PSA is a useful indicator used in the diagnosis of prostate cancer. Unfortunately, primary care physicians without specialization in urology are not trained to analyze PSA test results. Thus, it is best to bring the results to a urologist. Take note that even if the PSA level is still within the normal range, any change, even a slight increase, may already be indicative of cancer. Thus, a quick consultation and an accurate analysis of the results are of keen importance.
Any kidney abnormality. If any abnormalities are found on your kidneys through an x-ray, make sure to consult a urologist/nephrologist. Do not allow other health professionals to make biopsies of existing abnormalities such as growths and masses on the kidneys, unless under the advice of a urologist/nephrologist.
Persistent pain in the testicular area. For men, any pain in the testicular region that persists or recurs should be enough warning to send you to a urologist. Most of the time, the pain is caused by an abnormal growth, such as a nodule or a mass; regardless of how small and seemingly minor they are, all abnormalities should be seen by a urologist. Patients diagnosed with testicular cancer will have a higher recovery rate, especially those whose condition is caught early.
Rochester Regional Health System: “Urological Surgery”
- Rochester Regional Health System: “Diagnosis and Treatment”
- University of California San Francisco: “Urology”
- European Association of Urology: “What is Urology?”