what is a urologist?

A urologist is a doctor who diagnoses and treats conditions of the urinary tract in men and women. Urologists also treat problems of the male reproductive system. Some urologists specialize in areas such as male infertility and cancer treatment.

If you have a urinary tract infection, kidney stones, or a leaky bladder, you may need to see a urologist.

Do you want to have a vasectomy? A urologist can help with that, too.

What Do Urologists Treat?

The urinary tract is the system that creates, stores, and removes urine from the body. It includes the kidneys, bladder, adrenal glands, and urethra, as well as the male reproductive system. Conditions that urologists diagnose and treat include:

  • Cancer of the kidneys, penis, prostate, and testicles.
  • Delayed or absent ejaculation – When it takes a man an especially long time to ejaculate or cannot at all.
  • Erectile dysfunction (ED) – When a man cannot maintain an erection long enough for sexual intercourse.
  • Kidney stones – Hard, stone-like objects that form from the chemicals in urine and must be passed through the urethra when urinating and can cause irritation, infection, and blood in the urine.
  • Low testosterone – A deficiency in the amount of male sex hormone testosterone can have numerous side effects.
  • Male infertility – Inability to conceive due to issues on the man’s side.
  • Overactive bladder – Strong, sudden urges to urinate, even with a nearly empty bladder.
  • Peyronie’s disease– A painful curving of the penis during erection, typically affecting only about 6% of men ages 40 to 70.
  • Premature ejaculation – Ejaculation sooner than wanted during sex.
  • Problems with ED and urinary incontinence after prostatectomy – Complications of surgeries to remove cancer or tumors from the prostate.
  • Prostatitis – Inflammation of the prostate gland.
  • Ureteropelvic junction obstruction – Blockage of the kidney; can be congenital or occur after kidney stones.
  • Urinary incontinence – Leaky bladder.
  • Urinary tract infections – Infections that occur in the urinary tract, typically from bacteria entering in the Urethra.

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What Types of Procedures Can a Urologist Perform?

In addition to checking the health of the urinary tract in men and women, urologists also perform surgical procedures, such as:

  • Biopsies – Tissue samples that are used to run tests.
  • Prostatectomies – Surgery to remove part or all of the prostate gland to treat cancer.
  • Repairing damage from an injury.
  • Repairing a birth defect in the urinary system.
  • Vasectomies – A male sterilization procedure.
  • Kidney transplants – Replacement surgery of a failed or damaged kidney.

Types of Urologists

Urologists are medical doctors who complete at least five years of residency training before becoming board-certified.

Urologists also can specialize in certain areas of care, including:

  • Urogynecologists – Treat conditions unique to women.
  • Pediatric urologists – Treat children.
  • Urologic oncologists – Treat cancers of the urinary system.
  • Neurourologists – Focus on disorders of the urinary system related to spinal injuries or neurological disease.
  • Reconstructive urologists – Perform procedures to restore urinary, sexual, and reproductive function, such as penile implants for ED.

 How Does Someone Become a Urologist?

To become a urologist, you would need to obtain a bachelor’s degree and pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) to get into a medical school.

Then you would need to complete medical school, typically a four- to five-year degree. After medical school, you would have five to six years of a residency program to determine the right sector of medicine for you.

If that sector is Urology, then you would need to complete a fellowship for another one to three years before you can become board-certified or take your medical examination and practice as a urologist.

When Should You See a Urologist?

Your primary care physician can treat minor urinary problems. But if your symptoms don’t go away or get worse, you may be referred to a urologist. You should seek help immediately if you have:

  • Persistent pain or burning when you urinate.
  • Blood in your urine (can be a sign of bladder or kidney cancer).
  • Infertility problems (in men).
  • Ongoing problems getting or keeping an erection.
  • An enlarged prostate gland.
  • Pain in the back or lower abdomen (can be a symptom of kidney stones).
  • Leaking urine, weak urine flow, or other difficulty urinating.

What You Can Expect During Your Visit to a Urologist

A visit to a Urologist typically means you are already experiencing symptoms of something affecting your body. That is why it is important to discuss your medical history and what types of medications you may be taking. A urologist will commonly begin with a physical examination, meaning a rectal exam for men and pelvic exam for women.

Your urologist may order other tests or exams, such as a urinalysis, semen sample, or blood tests. In some cases, your doctor may require an imagining test like an MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound. Your doctor will discuss how you can be prepared for such tests.

Where Can You Find a Urologist?

Ask your primary care doctor for a referral to a UPMC urologist, or visit our website to schedule an appointment. For male sexual and reproductive health issues, contact the UPMC Men’s Health Center at 1-877-641-4636 to connect with an expert.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

UPMC.com, Urology Services at UPMC https://www.upmc.com/services/urology

American Medical Association, Urology https://www.ama-assn.org/specialty/urology

Urology Care Foundation, What Is Urology? https://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/what-is-urology

National Association for Continence, When to Seek Help https://www.nafc.org/step-6-seek-professional-help

About Urology

The UPMC Department of Urology offers a wide variety of specialized care for diseases of the male and female urinary tract and the male reproductive organs, including erectile dysfunction, kidney stones, urinary incontinence, prostate cancer, and more. We have a multifaceted team of physicians and researchers working together to provide the best care to both children and adults. Our team is nationally renowned for expertise in highly specialized technologies and minimally invasive surgical techniques. To find a provider near you, visit our website.