What Is a Urologist?
Urologists practice a type of medicine called urology. They specialize in treating conditions of the male and female urinary tract. That includes all organs and other body parts along the path urine takes out of the body. Those organs are:
- Ureters -- tubes that take urine from the kidneys to the bladder
- Urethra -- the duct that urine comes out of (In men, semen also comes out of the urethra.)
Urologists also treat male sex organs, including the penis, prostate, scrotum, and testes (testicles).
What Kind of Training Do Urologists Receive?
In the United States, urologists go through the same training all doctors do. First, they need a four-year degree from a college or university. Then, they go to medical school for four years. Next, they complete a residency. That’s five to six years of additional training at a hospital.
Some urologists also receive a fellowship. With that, they learn about a particular type of urology. They could do a fellowship in urologic oncology, for example, to learn to treat cancers of the urinary tract. All urologists have to pass licensing exams and get American Board of Urology certification.
Who Do Urologists Treat?
Urologists have expertise in many areas beyond the urinary tract. They can deal with issues that affect the internal organs, and female sex organs, too. This is because urinary tract issues often affect other parts of the body.
Many urologists treat a broad range of urinary problems. But, some specialize in specific issues. There are several different urology specialties, including:
- Calculi, which treats urinary tract stones
- Female urology
- Male infertility
- Neurourology, which focuses on nerve problems that affect the urinary tract
- Pediatric (or children’s) urology
- Renal (kidney) transplant
- Urologic oncology, which treats cancers of the urinary tract
Urologists can also help with:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Inability to hold urine (incontinence), including bedwetting and overactive bladder
- Problems with women’s pelvic floor -- the muscles that support the bladder, rectum, and vagina, which can become weak and allow the vagina or other organs to slip from their normal positions
- Peyronie’s disease, which causes scar tissue inside the penis that leads to painful and/or curved erections
- Prostate problems
Urologists also perform vasectomies. That’s a surgery for men that blocks sperm from reaching the semen. It prevents pregnancy.
When Should You See a Urologist?
In many cases, your primary care physician or another doctor you see regularly (such as a gynecologist) will refer you to a urologist. They may recommend you see a urologist because you:
- Notice blood in your urine
- Have pain when you urinate
- Are having a hard time controlling your urine, have a weak urine flow, or have a leaky bladder
- Have unexplained pain in your pelvic area
If you’re a woman, you might need to see a urologist if you have signs that your pelvic floor muscles are weakening. Signs can include pain during intercourse, a “bulging” feeling in your vagina, or discomfort when you sit down.
If you’re a man, your doctor may refer you to a urologist if you:
- Have sexual issues, such as pain during intercourse or trouble achieving or maintaining an erection
- Are having trouble conceiving
- Need a prostate exam -- a routine exam for men beginning around age 50 (Your doctor may recommend it earlier if you have problems that may be symptoms of an enlarged prostate.)
- Have elevated PSA (prostate specific antigen) which could be a sign of cancer
American College of Surgeons: “Urology.”
Urology Care Foundation: “What is Urology?” “When Should I See a Urologist?” “What is a Vasectomy?”
Cleveland Clinic: “What a Urologist Does (and Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to See One).”
National Association for Continence: “What is a Urologist?”
University of Michigan Health: “A Female Urologist Explains Women’s Most Common Urological Concerns -- and How to Treat Them.”
Mayo Clinic: “Peyronie’s disease.”
Prostate Cancer Foundation: “Prostate exam.”