This piece has been medically reviewed by Aleece Fosnight, MPAS, PA-C, CSC-S, CSE, NCMP, IF, Medical Advisor to Aeroflow Urology.
While it’s important that you see a urologist at some point in your life to maintain proper urinary health, many of us might not even know what a urologist is.
Here we’ll explain what a urologist is and why you might need to see one. We also asked Aleece Fosnight, a Urology Provider and Medical Advisor for Aeroflow Urology what you should look for in a urologist and 5 things your urologist should and should not do.
What Is a Urologist?
A urologist is a healthcare provider that specializes in the reproductive urinary systems. A urologist's job consists of diagnosing urological conditions and reproductive issues like:
- Kidney stones.
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs).
- Erectile dysfunction.
- Male reproductive system issues, such as enlarged prostate gland and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
- Adrenal glands problems.
- Female or male infertility.
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- Genitourinary diseases.
- Pelvic organ prolapse.
- Prostate cancer.
- Urethra blockages.
- Interstitial cystitis.
- Bladder cancer.
- Prostate cancer.
- Kidney diseases such as kidney cancer.
You may experience many different types of UI.
These can include:
Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI): Leaking urine when you cough, laugh, sneeze, bend over, lift heavy objects, or do any other activity that exerts pressure on your pelvic floor muscles.
Overflow Incontinence: Experiencing urinary retention in your bladder due to weakened pelvic floor muscles that do not allow you to empty your bladder fully, resulting in leakage throughout the day.
Urge Incontinence / Overactive Bladder (OAB): Feeling the sudden and intense urge to urinate, leading you to empty your bladder more frequently than usual.
Functional Incontinence: Having control of your bladder but leaking urine due to another medical condition that makes it difficult to get to the toilet on time.
Mixed Incontinence: Experiencing one or more sets of symptoms at once associated with two different types of UI (for example, SUI and OAB).
When to See a Urologist
While some experts recommend you see a urologist at around 40 or 50 years old since aging usually brings on symptoms of UI, other expets say there is no recommended time. But, you should definitely see one if you suspect you have any of the previously mentioned conditions or if you have symptoms of:
- Persistent and internal pain in your lower abdomen or lower back.
- Pain or burning when urinating.
- Recurrent UTIs.
- Reproductive issues.
- Urinary retention (being unable to empty your bladder) or weak urine flow.
- Symptoms of incontinence, such as bladder leakage when sneezing or coughing, peeing more than 8 times in 24 hours, or urinating in your sleep.
Need more help? Check out our YouTube Channel for expert tips for dealing with incontinence and more!
What to Expect at a Urology Appointment
At your first urology visit, your urologist will ask you why you’ve been referred to them; you usually need a referral to see a specialist from your primary care provider to see a urologist. It’s important to tell your urologist what symptoms you’re having so they can properly diagnose and help you.
Your urologist may perform:
- A urine sample.
- Urodynamic testing.
- A physical exam.
Depending on your symptoms and condition, you may need to revisit your urologist more than once to solve your issues.
5 Things Your Urologist Should & Shouldn't Do
1) They Should... Listen & Validate You.
“As a urology provider, I never gaslight my patients,” says Fosnight. We know it’s difficult to talk about symptoms like UTIs, erectile dysfunction (ED), and urinary incontinence, but it’s imperative to your health that you speak up! It’s also imperative to your health that your urologist listen to your symptoms and experiences in order to diagnose you properly. Fosnight says it’s important to know exactly what’s going on so that your urologist can make it better.
2) They Should... Take a Urine Culture.
If you tell your urologist you’re experiencing symptoms of a UTI, like burning when peeing or pain in your lower abdomen, they should order a urine culture. This is because the bacteria that cause UTIs need to be isolated in order to determine if your symptoms are actually caused by an infection.
“There are a lot of other conditions that mimic UTIs,” Fosnight says. By taking a urine culture test, your provider will be able to make sure they’re treating you correctly- especially because UTI treatment typically involves prescribing antibiotics. And, if you are prescribed antibiotics when a UTI isn’t the cause of your urinary symptoms, they will likely persist after the visit.
3) They Should... Refer You to a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist.
“Pelvic floor physical therapists (PFPTs) are key in helping patients with their urinary concerns,” Fosnight says. Issues like bladder leaks may require pelvic floor therapy which can bring strength back to your pelvic floor muscles, so it’s important that your urologist recognizes that and refers you to proper help.
4) They Should Never... Tell You to Lose Weight.
“This is something that we hear a lot in the urology realm,” Fosnight says. Healthcare providers may tell you that if you lose 10 or 20 pounds, your urinary incontinence will improve, but this isn’t always the case. It’s more likely a problem that requires more attention and can’t be solved with weight loss alone.
5) They Should Never... Use the Term "Normal."
The term “normal” should be used carefully, especially in the healthcare community because everyone’s urinary issues, anatomies, and bodies are different.
“Things can be common, but not necessarily ‘normal,’” says Fosnight.
Information provided on the Aeroflow Urology blog is not intended as a substitute to medical advice or care from a healthcare professional. Aeroflow recommends consulting your healthcare provider if you are experiencing medical issues relating to continence care.