According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), diseases and disorders of the urinary tract and male reproductive system, such as stress incontinence in women and enlarged prostates in men, affect nearly 5 million people in the U.S. and often lead to significant disability and reduced quality of life.
Urinary tract and male reproductive system problems can cause discomfort and even potential embarrassment with symptoms such as burning or itching from recurrent bladder infections, sexual problems due to erectile dysfunction (ED), difficulty urinating, or leakage of urine. While it is always best to call your primary care physician first, when symptoms such as these occur it is time to see a urologist.
If you have symptoms or a disease related to your urinary tract (whether you are male or female) or your reproductive system (if you are male – women usually see an OB/GYN to take care of the female reproductive system as opposed to a urologist), finding a trustworthy, experienced urologist is likely on the top of your list. However, even though many great doctors exist, not every urologist will be the right fit for you.
Our goal here at MediFind is to give you more confidence in your health decisions, especially when settling on the right doctor. That’s why we created this guide—to empower you with the information you need to make the right decisions when choosing and working with a good urologist. (Note: if you are currently experiencing new or serious symptoms you think may be related to a urinary tract or male reproductive tract disease, call your doctor, visit your local emergency room, or call 911).
Your urologist will likely be a part of your life for some time, so connecting with a physician you can trust is vital. Later on, in this guide, we will discuss finding the right urologist who can treat your specific condition.
But first, let’s cover what the urinary system and male reproductive system are, what a urologist does, and what to expect when you walk into a urologist’s office.
- What is the Urinary System?
- What is a Urologist?
- What Does a Urologist Do?
- Urology Sub-specialties
- What Can a Urologist Diagnose?
- Why Would You Be Referred to a Urologist?
- How Do I Find a Urologist Who Takes My Insurance?
- When Should I Travel to See a Urology Expert?
- What to Expect at Your Urologist Visit
- How to Find a Good Urologist
What is the Urinary System?
The urinary system regulates water and salts in the blood, filters out waste products, produces a hormone that controls blood pressure, and includes the organs that produce and release urine.
The urinary system includes:
What is the Male Reproductive System?
The male reproductive system is responsible for sexual function and urination.
The male reproductive system includes:
- Prostate gland
- Vas deferens
What is a Urologist?
Urologists are experts in diseases that affect the urinary system and the male reproductive system, also known as the genitourinary system. The urinary system regulates water and salts in the blood, filters out waste products, and produces a hormone that controls blood pressure. The urinary system is made up of the organs that produce and release urine and includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. The male reproductive system includes the prostate, vas deferens, testes, scrotum, and penis.
Common diseases of the urinary system include bladder infections, incontinence, kidney infections, and kidney stones. Common diseases of the male reproductive system include benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), erectile dysfunction (ED), and prostate cancer.
Your primary care physician may refer you to a urologist if they feel you need more specialized attention for your urinary or male reproductive tract symptoms. These symptoms could range from recurrent urinary tract infections to erectile dysfunction, male infertility, kidney pain, blood in the urine, stress incontinence, scrotal lumps, or other symptoms.
What Does a Urologist Do?
Urologists specialize in diagnosing and treating urinary diseases, which are a group of disorders characterized by conditions such as severe abdominal, pelvic, or back pain, bloody or pink-colored urine, cloudy urine, fever and chills, foul-smelling urine, and frequent or difficult urination. Urologists also treat male reproductive diseases characterized by conditions such as problems with sexual function, scrotal lumps, pain, or swelling, and infections.
Urologists generally treat urinary diseases with medications and urinary behavior training. Urologists can also perform several procedures, such as cystoscopies and surgery.
Even though a urologist is a type of specialist, there are a few sub-specialities within this discipline. A urologist can receive specialized training to manage specific urinary and male reproductive tract conditions in subspecialties such as:
Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery
A urologist who specializes in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery manages and treats patients with complex benign pelvic conditions, such as pelvic floor dysfunction and lower urinary tract disorders and the complications that arise from these conditions.
A pediatric urologist is an expert in urinary and male reproductive system diseases in children. A pediatric urologist treats conditions in children such as vesicoureteral reflux, and genital abnormalities, including intersex conditions and hypospadias (urethral opening on underside of penis), undescended testicles (cryptorchidism), and hernias.
Additional urology subspecialities include neurourology and renal transplantation.
What Can a Urologist Diagnose?
Urologists diagnose and treat urinary and male reproductive tract diseases that affect the kidneys, ureters, bladder, urethra, prostate, vas deferens, testicles, scrotum, and penis.
Some of the most common conditions treated by urologists include:
- Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH)
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney stones
- Neurogenic bladder
- Reflux nephropathy
- Stress urinary incontinence
- Testicular cancer
- Urethral stricture
- Urinary tract infection
- Wilms tumor
Why Would You be Referred to a Urologist?
Almost everyone may one day experience a bladder infection or the rare leakage of urine that can be treated effectively by your primary care physician (PCP). However, for other, more complicated urinary and male reproductive tract conditions, your PCP may refer you to a urologist for further evaluation to determine what may be the cause and its treatment.
Once you have a referral to see a urologist, it is important to see them as soon as possible, so they can treat any potentially serious conditions, such as interstitial cystitis, kidney stones, or testicular and prostate cancer.
Why Would You Need to See a Urologist?
If you experience any of the symptoms listed below, you should first call your primary care physician who may refer you to a urologist:
- A urinary infection that won’t go away with antibiotics
- Frequent or painful urination
- Difficulty urinating
- Leaking urine
- Blood in urine
- Foul-smelling or cloudy urine
- Persistent stomach or flank pain
- Erectile dysfunction
- Male infertility
Note that in this article, we are discussing urinary and male reproductive tract issues that might or might not require emergency assistance. However, according to UCLA Health, if you have any of the symptoms listed below, call 911 and/or visit an Emergency Room immediately:
- Sudden inability to urinate
- Severe lower abdominal pain
- Sudden onset of pain in scrotum
- Blood in semen
- Redness and/or lump in scrotum
- Prolonged, painful penile erection
- Swelling of the glans of penis in uncircumcised males and/or inability to close foreskin
- Severe pain and redness in the penis, scrotum, or perineum
Lifestyle Habits and Pre-existing Conditions that Affect Urological Health
Certain lifestyle habits, medical history, or pre-existing conditions also put you at greater risk of developing urinary and male reproductive tract issues. If any of the below apply to you, you should consider visiting a urologist:
- Multiple or difficult childbirths
- Overactive bladder
- Weak bladder
- Spinal cord injury
- Frequent urinary tract infections
- Family history of urinary tract cancer
How Do I Find a Urologist Who Takes My Insurance?
With the high cost of medical care, it’s especially important to know whether a particular urologist accepts your private medical insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. While you can choose to be treated by a urologist who doesn’t accept your insurance, it’s important to understand how much you will have to pay out of pocket. MediFind always recommends calling the urologist’s office to confirm their acceptance of your insurance and to discuss possible costs and payment arrangements.
When Should I Travel to See a Urology Expert?
If you have a rare urological condition, then it is less likely that there will be an expert nearby, even if you live in a large metropolitan area. While the decision to travel to see an urology expert is not easy and can be an additional burden, you may want to consider traveling to see an expert to be certain you are getting the best treatment.
What to Expect at Your Urologist Visit
While it is natural to feel apprehensive when going to the doctor, we hope to put you at ease by outlining what you can expect when you visit a urologist. Below, we also provide you with some tips on how to get the most out of your visit by preparing a list of questions to ask your doctor.
Advice for First-timers Visiting a Urologist
If this is the first time you are seeing a urologist, here are some tips to help you have a successful visit:
Bring your list of concerns (or reasons for your visit) with you on a piece of paper or your phone, so you can easily recall them when speaking to your urologist. (Later, in this article, we will supply you with a list of questions to ask your doctor.)
Bring a friend or loved one for support, so you can recall the information after your visit. You may be nervous, which will make it more difficult to remember what the urologist said. Bring a notebook as well, so you can take notes.
Be honest and don’t hold anything back. Your urologist can only help you with the information you give them. Understanding the full picture will give your urologist more to work with and help them to provide you with the best care.
Before Your Urology Appointment
Prepare for your appointment by gathering the following items:
- Copies of medical records (dating back at least one year)
- List of surgeries you have had
- List of current medications, including dosages
- Allergies to medications or other allergies, such as to food, dust, or pollen
- Any alternative therapies/vitamins/herbal supplements, including dosages
- List of symptoms and details about how long they last and how often (it’s advisable to write them down beforehand as it’s easy to forget when you are at your appointment)
- Stressful work or life events that may be affecting your health
- Family history of disease
- Name and contact information of pharmacy
- List of questions (see next section)
During Your Urology Appointment
What can you expect during your appointment? First, it is best to leave early for your appointment in case you have difficulty finding the doctor’s office. You should also show up at least 15 minutes prior to your appointment to fill out paperwork.
Your urology visit may include a review of your medical history, a physical exam, and an evaluation of symptoms. Your urologist may also send you for additional testing to confirm or rule out a diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you or possibly refer you to another specialist or subspecialist if you need additional care. For example, if you need a surgical procedure such as a kidney transplant, your urologist may refer you to a transplant surgeon.
You should tell your urologist about any issues you may be experiencing when urinating, such as an increased frequency of urination, changes in the color or smell of the urine, any urinary leakage, any flank or kidney pain, concerns with male sexual function or low sperm count, any lumps, pain, or swelling in the scrotum or testicles, and low sex drive.
Your urologist may need more information before creating a treatment plan and may recommend follow-up visits and any of the following tests or procedures:
- Urine tests
- Blood tests
- Rectal exam
- Testosterone tests
- Semen analysis
- CT scan
- MRI scan
Your urologist may prescribe medications, bladder training, or surgery.
This visit will also include a time to discuss your concerns with your doctor. Feel free to ask your questions. Good doctors want to ease your worries and ensure that you fully understand your diagnosis, what to expect, and the treatment options. Your time with the doctor, however, may be limited, so be certain to prepare your questions beforehand, placing the highest priority questions at the top of the list.
Below is a list of questions to consider asking your urologist. The questions you ask your doctor will, of course, depend on your unique medical situation, so we have included a list of questions connected to different scenarios. Choose the questions that make the most sense for your situation.
List of Questions to Ask at Your Urologist Visit
- What is my diagnosis?
- What is the condition I have?
- What is my prognosis?
- Are there any risks or complications associated with my condition?
- Do I need additional testing?
- Why do you want these tests?
- Are there any risks or complications associated with these tests?
- What is involved with this test? (outpatient, duration, preparation, etc.)
- When will I find out the test results?
Treatments / medication / procedures
- What treatments are available?
- Are there any risks or complications involved with this treatment?
- Why do I need this treatment?
- What are the benefits of each treatment?
- Are there any alternatives to this treatment?
- How effective is this treatment?
- Are there any side effects of this medication?
- Does this medication interact with anything?
- Will I have to take this medication for life?
- How long will this procedure take?
- How do I need to prepare for the procedure?
- Is the procedure outpatient, or will I need to stay in the hospital?
- Who will be performing the procedure?
- Do I need to make lifestyle changes?
- Will lifestyle changes improve my condition or alleviate my symptoms?
- When should I follow-up with another visit?
- Should I get a second opinion?
After the appointment: getting a second opinion
Suppose you are happy with your urologist and got your questions answered. In that case, you can schedule a follow-up appointment as well as follow the doctor’s recommendations concerning treatment, medications, or additional testing, and so on.
However, if you are unhappy with or uncertain about your diagnosis and want a different perspective on your condition or treatments, it’s okay to get a second opinion. There are many wonderful urologists, but not every physician may be the right fit for you. The doctor-patient relationship is an important one, with communication being an essential factor. If you have a hard time communicating with your urologist or do not feel comfortable, it might be time to look for another physician.
Since even the top urologists can have different opinions, you should always try to get a second opinion from another expert before making treatment decisions. Ideally, you want to get a second opinion from an expert who can provide you with an alternative point-of-view, so you can make an informed choice that best fits your condition and its treatment.
Medical errors are rare, but they do happen because doctors are fallible like everyone else. The BMJ Quality & Safety Healthcare Journal published a study on diagnostic errors. It estimated that approximately 12 million adults in the U.S. are misdiagnosed every year, and half of these misdiagnoses could potentially be harmful. Getting a second opinion can assure you that you are making the best health decisions and receiving the quality of care you deserve.
If you want to find a urologist who can give you a quality second opinion, visit MediFind’s Second Opinion Finder.
How to Find a Good Urologist
Finding a urologist who is the right fit can be a confusing and complicated process. However, with the right tools, you can find an expert you can feel comfortable with and get the care you want and deserve.
Typically, your primary care physician will refer you to a urologist. But that doesn’t mean you need to see that specific doctor from the referral. Later, in this section, we will show you how you can easily search for top urologists.
Your friends and family members may also refer you to a good urologist. However, beware—though well-meaning, your loved ones might not know which urologist has expertise in your specific condition. We will cover why this is important later in this section.
Beware of online doctor reviews as well. While they might help you evaluate things such as staff friendliness and office aesthetics, they do not give you the full picture of a doctor’s expertise.
The American Board of Urology (ABU) recommends researching a doctor’s credentials and confirming they are board-certified before booking an appointment. Search the following websites for a urologist’s certifications and specialties.
These databases do not dive into specifics on a physician’s expertise, however. While they list the doctor’s board certifications, they do not provide information on their expertise in specific urological conditions, their current and past research, their clinical trials, or their connectedness to other doctors in their field.
Find the Best Urologist Quickly
MediFind was created to help health consumers quickly and easily find the best care and pathways to the right treatments.
MediFind is different from other doctor-finder databases because it doesn’t evaluate physicians based on online reviews, which can be biased, unreliable, and even fake. While marginally helpful for assessing the doctor’s office staff’s friendliness or typical wait times, online reviews do not give you the full picture of a doctor’s expertise. In contrast, MediFind catalogs physicians who focus on the treatment and care of one or a few conditions. These doctors are likely to offer additional perspectives and insights into your care and treatment than more generalized doctors.
MediFind evaluates physicians according to:
- Connectedness with other physicians who are experts in the treatment and pathology of a particular disease or condition
- Published papers or research about this condition
- Experience in treating patients with this condition
- Number of patients referred from other specialists who treat this condition
MediFind also offers a suite of tools and current research to help beyond just finding a great doctor:
- Find a Doctor – MediFind’s database includes over 2.5 million doctors from around the world that allows you to search by condition, specialty, or name.
- Symptom Checker – Research your symptoms and identify possible causes that you can discuss with your doctor.
- Second Opinion Finder – Find doctors who can give you a quality second opinion.
- Research medical conditions, clinical trials, and the latest advances for your condition.
- Search through current objective medical data compiled in an easy-to-digest format.
How to Search for the Best Urologists: Start Here
To search for urologists in your area, visit MediFind’s Best Urologists Near Me page and enter your location and radius. MediFind will return a list of urologists within the set radius of your preferred location.
We encourage you to take your search a step further to see what makes MediFind superior to other tools. On the right side of the Urologist search page, next to the doctor profiles, you will find a list of urinary and male reproductive tract conditions. Click on a condition to customize your search. If your urinary or male reproductive tract condition is not listed here, simply click on the search icon above this list and type in your condition to find urologists who specialize in your specific condition.
This list is important because there is a lot of value in finding a urologist with expertise in your specific urinary or male reproductive tract condition, as explained earlier.
Performing a custom search for a particular urinary or male reproductive tract condition returns a list of urologists who are experts in that condition, ranked by MediFind’s expert tiers. Our expert tiers evaluate physicians based on the factors we listed above (connectedness, number of patients seen, referrals, and research), among other factors. Read more on how MediFind evaluates physicians. When you click on a doctor’s profile, you will also find more information about the condition along with its latest advances and clinical trials. The profile also includes the doctor’s credentials, research, and expertise in related conditions.
If you are unsure of your specific condition, use MediFind’s Symptom Checker to narrow your focus on a diagnosis so you can find the right urologist. Note that the Symptom Checker is not a diagnostic tool. It merely helps you narrow down a condition to find the best specialists (who have expertise in that condition), so you can find the best urologist and discuss your potential diagnosis with your doctor.
We’re On Your Side
The information MediFind offers you is not available in online reviews or other medical websites. However, it’s essential to have this information, so you can receive the highest quality of care.
When you are managing a complex or rare health condition, time is not always on your side. We created MediFind to help you find the best care as quickly as possible. We hope that we can alleviate some of the challenges associated with your journey to better health, while providing you with the means to access world-class doctors you can trust.