7 Reasons for Men to See a Urologist
If you’re having trouble urinating or you're waking up in the middle of the night to go, you may need to see a urologist. A urologist can also help if you’re having pain in your pelvic area or if you’ve lost your sex drive. There are many other urology problems in men and reasons to make an appointment with a urologist, however. A urologist has special training to diagnose and treat conditions that affect the urinary tract. This includes the urethra, bladder and kidneys. Here are eight important reasons to see one:
1. If you have prostate symptoms.
The prostate is a small gland that helps produce part of the semen. It surrounds the urethra, which is the tube that lets urine and semen leave your body. The gland tends to get larger as you age, but if it gets too big, it can cause problems. An enlarged prostate can squeeze the urethra, making it harder to urinate. The bladder may become weaker and can't empty completely. This could make you go more often, even during the night.
The prostate gland also can become inflamed or infected, a condition called prostatitis. This can cause pain when you urinate. If the infection is from bacteria, you may have fever and chills. Recurrent prostate infections may cause pain in your lower back, groin, or tip of your penis.
A urologist can diagnose the cause of your prostate symptoms. For an enlarged prostate, the doctor can prescribe medication to shrink the prostate or relax muscles around it. Lifestyle changes could also help, including limiting drinks before bedtime, easing stress, getting regular exercise, and taking the time to more completely empty your bladder. Surgery could be another option.
Treatment for prostatitis depends on what’s causing it. A urologist can give you a physical exam and run blood and urine tests to find the problem. Most of the time, medicines can treat prostatitis. Drinking extra fluids, getting a lot of rest, and taking stool softeners might also help ease your symptoms.
2. If you have kidney stones.
Symptoms of a kidney stone include having trouble urinating and having cloudy or bloody urine, an upset stomach, and very bad pain in your side, back, groin, or lower belly. These symptoms need immediate attention from a urologist.
Kidney stones are hard, pebble-like deposits that form inside your kidneys. They can cause pain as they move through your urinary tract. A urologist will order blood and urine tests as well as imaging tests to be sure the problem is a kidney stone. The doctor might prescribe medicine or use a technique with sound waves to help you pass the stone. Surgery could be necessary if the stone gets stuck along the route.
A urologist can also recommend lifestyle changes that may help prevent kidney stones from forming. This includes drinking more water, reducing salt and animal protein in your diet, and avoiding calcium supplements.
3. If you have a urinary tract infection.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) develop when bacteria get into your urinary tract. UTIs can cause pain or burning when you urinate and an urgent feeling to urinate. You also may have a fever, cloudy urine, or pain in your lower belly. Women are more likely than men to develop UTIs. However, men with an enlarged prostate or kidney stones are at risk. So are men who are on bed rest.
UTIs need treatment right away to keep the infection from spreading from your bladder to your kidneys. Urologists usually prescribe antibiotics to get rid of the infection. The doctor may also talk to you about ways to prevent getting a UTI in the future. Drinking plenty of fluids can help flush bacteria out of your urinary tract. Eating more cranberries, blueberries, and citrus fruits also could help ward off UTIs.
4. If you have urinary incontinence.
Urinary incontinence (UI) is the loss of bladder control. It affects up to a third of older men. The problem can rest with the muscles or nerves of your urinary tract. Disorders involving your brain or spine, or an enlarged prostate also can lead to UI. So can being obese or sedentary. If you have UI, you also could have an overactive bladder. In this condition, there's a problem with the timing of nerve signals going to your bladder and you can’t get to the bathroom in time.
Treatment for UI depends on what’s causing it. Options include medicines, medical devices, and surgery. However, urologists often suggest certain exercises and lifestyle changes first. This may include bladder training where you learn to wait longer between trips to the bathroom. The doctor also might suggest urinating two times in a row and limiting caffeinated or acidic foods and drinks.
5. If you have erectile dysfunction.
Your chances of having erectile dysfunction (ED) increase as you get older. With ED, you're not able to get and keep an erection. This can affect your confidence, quality of life, and relationships. ED could be a sign of a physical problem that's treatable. For instance, low levels of the male hormone testosterone can cause ED. Many chronic conditions can also increase the risk, including diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson's disease, depression, and alcoholism.
Treating ED depends on the cause. Medication and testosterone treatment are options. So is a penis implant or a pump for severe cases. A urologist can explain the pros and cons of the different treatments. A urologist also can talk with you about lifestyle changes that could help. This includes not smoking, losing extra weight, and exercising regularly. Limiting alcohol intake and easing stress can help, too.
6. If you're interested in permanent birth control.
If you know you're finished having children, a urologist can perform a vasectomy. This procedure cuts the tubes that carry sperm from your testicles to your penis. Afterwards, your semen will no longer have sperm in it. You will still make sperm, but your body will resorb them. A urologist can also answer questions about other forms of birth control. The doctor can explain the long-term risks and benefits of each option.
Many urologists also treat infertility. They may be able to help if you want children, but have a medical problem that has prevented conception.
7. If you have blood in your urine.
Blood in urine is usually a sign of infection, kidney stones, or another kidney disorder. Sometimes, however, it’s also a sign of bladder or prostate cancer. Other symptoms may include needing to urinate more than usual, having trouble going to the bathroom, and having back pain. Your risk for prostate cancer increases as you get older. You’re also at greater risk if you have a family history of the disease.
A urologist might be the first health care provider you see for these symptoms. The doctor can do an exam and order blood, urine and other tests to make a diagnosis. In most cases, cancers that are found early are easier to treat, so don't delay in seeing a urologist.