Urologists are doctors who treat diseases of the urinary tract in both males and females. A primary care physician may refer you to a urologist if you’re having problems with your urinary tract, kidneys, or bladder. Urologists also help males manage issues with their reproductive system.
What Does a Urologist Do?
Urologists are trained to treat:
- Enlarged prostate gland
- Erectile dysfunction
- Kidney stones
- Urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Cancer (in prostate, kidney, testicles, bladder)
- Peyronie’s disease (scar tissue in the penis)
- Prolapse (when the uterus slips out of place or sticks out of the vagina)
They’re also trained to perform various surgeries in the urinary tract, including:
- Sling procedures to help with prolapse or urinary incontinence
- Removal of blockages
- Repairs to urinary organs
- Removing excess tissue from an enlarged prostate
- Removal of the entire prostate
Many urologists work in private practice. Some choose to specialize in targeted areas of urology. The American Urological Association recognizes seven different subspecialties:
- Male Infertility
- Urology Oncology (cancers of the urinary tract)
- Urinary Tract Stones (Calculi)
- Female Urology
- Kidney (Renal) Transplant
- Pediatric Urology
- Neurology (deals with the control of the nervous system for genitourinary organs)
Education and Training
Once they receive a bachelor’s degree at an accredited college or university, a urologist’s education includes attending a medical school with accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). Doctors are then required to complete a residency program that lasts 5-6 years.
Training during the first 2 years of most residency programs focuses on general surgery. The next 3-4 years put the spotlight on the field of urology. Once a urologist completes training, they must be certified by the American Board of Urology before they can start treating patients.
Doctors must complete several different components before earning the certification.
- Pass a written exam overseen by the American Board of Urology
- Acquire an unrestricted medical license
- Assess clinical practice by way of a peer review of clinical logs
- Finish 16 months of practice in one community
- Take and pass an oral examination from the American Board of Urology
After receiving certification, some urologists choose to go on to complete fellowships. These allow doctors to receive additional training in one of the seven urology subspecialties.
Reasons to See a Urologist
Your primary care physician may decide you need to see a urologist if you have ongoing symptoms such as:
- Blood in your urine
- Pain when urinating
- Pelvic organ prolapse
- Ongoing erectile dysfunction
- Trouble emptying your bladder
- Pain in your pelvis, sides, or back
- Bladder leakage
If you’re an older male, you may want to start seeing a urologist for regular prostate checks.
What to Expect at the Urologist
It’s a good idea to research the urologist and write down questions to ask. These can help make sure this doctor is the right one for you. Questions you may want to ask include:
- Do you have experience treating my specific condition?
- Have you had recent experience performing the kind of surgery I might require?
- What other doctors or medical professionals will be involved in my medical care?
The doctor will also ask you questions about your medical history and your reasons for seeing a urologist. Be open about any issues you’re having. This helps them come up with the right treatment plan for your condition.
They’ll usually start with a physical examination. The doctor may order tests, including blood tests, PSA tests, imaging scans, or other urological tests to get more information about your disorder.
From there, they’ll talk to you about the different treatment options available. These depend on your condition and may include surgery.