The hardest part of navigating our medical conditions is deciphering when it’s time to see a specialist. This can be one of the most pivotal points in navigating our own health especially when it comes to intimate issues. Let’s start with what a urologist is.
A urologist is a physician who specializes in conditions that affect the urinary tract in men, women, and children. They also specialize in diseases that affect the reproductive system. These conditions can range from peeing too much or peeing too little, to being unable to father a child. The urinary tract consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra; meanwhile, the male reproductive system includes the male testes, prostate, and penis. A female specialist can also be helpful in evaluating the vagina, vulva, and vestibule. You might hear someone use the word “genitourinary.” This refers to symptoms, conditions, or treatments that affect both systems.
You may already be seeing a urologist for regular checkups and if this is the case, then great!
But let’s talk about how to recognize when there is a problem with your urinary health that requires attention from a specialist.
Do you notice that you’ve started going to the bathroom more frequently? Or maybe that you have started waking up at night to pee (eek!)? Or this feeling of constantly having to go? Do you feel like you don’t completely empty? Changes in your stream quality? If you have asked yourself any or all the questions above, then it’s time to see a urologist. Developing any of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something drastically wrong with your urinary tract (it could have something to do with your pelvic floor), but these are signs that it’s time to seek an evaluation from a specialist and a urologist is just the doctor for you.
If you’re experiencing burning while you pee, blood, cloudy urine, or crystals, you should see a urologist. Often, any or all of these symptoms can be a sign of a urinary tract infection. Other times it can indicate things like kidney stones or even cancer. But not to worry—a urologist can accurately and effectively evaluate the symptoms above.
Now let’s touch on reoccurring UTIs. Some of the causes could be tight underwear, sex, going in a pool, or being post-menopausal. Recurrent UTIs are defined as over two UTIs in six months and are also a reason to seek care from a urologist.
If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection, you know exactly how uncomfortable, unpleasant, and painful it can be. If you’ve had recurrent or persistent UTI symptoms with no identifiable infection, you know that it can be frustrating, discouraging, and downright unbearable. This type of bladder pain can often be a sign of a urological condition known as interstitial cystitis or bladder pain syndrome. This is a chronic bladder health issue characterized by pain and/or pressure in the bladder, as well as urinary tract symptoms that last longer than six weeks without an infection present. And guess what–a urologist can help!
Well, what about if you urinate when you cough or sneeze? Maybe when “you gotta go you gotta go?” This is something known as “urinary incontinence.” When one either leaks urine during times of “stress” on the pelvic floor musculature (i.e. coughing or sneezing) this is known as stress urinary incontinence. There is a difference between that and the feeling of needing to pee when you unlock the door as you’re walking into your house: often a symptom of what is known as “urge” incontinence. The leakage of urine in any form is an issue that can and should be treated. All this can often be accompanied by a symptom of “prolapse” or feeling like some of the pelvic organs are “falling out.” Something that can often be described by women after menopause or childbirth or both. Treatment of prolapse is also very effectively performed by a urologist or expert in the urinary tract.
Penis owners – listen up.
If you’re having issues with erections, pain with ejaculation, or pain in your testicles, see a urologist! There is a special type of urologist known as a “reproductive” or “infertility” specialist that focuses on issues of the male reproductive system. This would be the type of urologist one would see for a semen analysis. The same type would also be helpful if there were issues with erections (obtaining or maintaining) or ejaculation, and the same type you would see if you were interested in a vasectomy or a reversal.
Vagina owners, pay attention.
If you have ever experienced pain with intercourse or issues with arousal/orgasms, it might be time to see a specialist. These are all things a urologist can address with you. One of the most amazing things about urologists is their ability to treat most issues pertaining to both the urinary and reproductive tracts.
When we do talk about sex it’s often only about the good stuff: intimacy, connection, pleasure, and starting a family. Unfortunately, people are a lot less open about their sex challenges, such as decreased libido. But as distressing and frustrating as low sex drive may be, it’s a normal part of the highs and lows of life. Due to changing hormones, medications, stress, or pelvic pain, it’s totally natural for our desire for sex to fluctuate throughout our lives.
By working with a urologist, you can often find ways to reclaim your sex life (for women, this includes increasing libido during pregnancy).
We can take that a step further with itching, burning, swelling, fatigue, UTIs, and painful intercourse, as these are all common symptoms of pelvic pain. Even though pelvic pain (pain that originates in the area below the belly button and above the legs) affects one in every seven women (and many men), it can be challenging to fully understand the underlying causes without professional help. Urologists are often the first step in understanding the various causes of pelvic pain.
Moving over to children, sometimes they can have anatomical abnormalities in the kidneys or urinary tract that warrant investigation or surgery by a urologist. These doctors are trained to treat several genital abnormalities (growths or positioning of genitals on the body) and groin problems like varicocele (swelling of veins in the scrotum) or other anatomical abnormalities in children.
Bottom line: there are a multitude of reasons that people seek care from urologists.
Urology is a dynamic field. We often don’t realize how many of our symptoms can be adequately and efficiently treated by a urologist, so sometimes just seeing it in writing helps. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to contact your primary care physician and see if a urology referral would be appropriate for you. The urologist can order tests that will make the diagnosis clear and point the way to treatment. Often, patients may be embarrassed to talk about urinating or other issues related to “down there,” but stigmatization surrounding these issues is common and shouldn’t exist. It is important to note that all of these conditions are very common, and successful treatment is possible. Be honest with your healthcare providers so they can help you get back to being healthy and regaining quality of life.