Treating Erectile Dysfunction

Like every other medical condition, the treatment of erectile dysfunction is safer and more effective when done by a doctor with expertise in treating it — the urologist. Seeing a urologist as soon as you have ED symptoms not only ensures quick relief, but also saves a lot of money. But with so many phony cures being promoted and ED products being advertised, men with ED are often tempted to pursue such options rather than seeing a urologist.

The rush for seemingly convenient cures

Actually a lot of men often rush to vascular clinics to get tests done and undergo procedures, some they do not even need. For many, it is a question of seeking the most convenient or popular remedy rather than the safest and most effective treatment. Likewise, with Viagra now generic and cheaper — available for as low as 30 cents per pill in several outlets — it has become quite easy for ED patients to just buy the drug and try it without seeing a urologist.

Dangers of non-prescribed treatments for ED

While it is safe to say that millions of men find these non-prescribed treatments a convenient way of improving their sex lives, it is never prudent to use a prescription drug such as Viagra when it has not been prescribed by a doctor. These medications come with side effects and risks, and if you have certain medical conditions taking such a drug can lead to severe consequences. For example, if you have heart disease and are taking nitrates, a dangerously low blood pressure may develop if you take Viagra. But when the drug is prescribed by a urologist, the doctor will ensure that you are healthy enough to start using the medication.

So why should you still see a urologist?

Most of the treatments advertised are not only bogus and a waste of money, but also may be harmful. Actually you may try several solutions without relief and eventually find yourself in a worse situation than before you started. So it is wise to just forget about every ED treatment that does not require a prescription. It won’t cure your condition! And when you find products advertised as a “breakthrough” or endorsed by medical organizations, you still need to check them out with your urologists. It is the doctor who should confirm whether or not the product is legitimate, a medical breakthrough or has been endorsed by a reputable medical organization.

Not everyone may take ED medications

ED medications are not for everyone with the condition. The drugs will work for some men, but they may be unsafe or inappropriate for others. You should see a urologist to learn whether your condition requires treatment with ED drugs. A urologist will take your medical history, do a physical exam and order various tests to determine whether you need treatment and which drugs are best for you.

You may have ED due to untreated diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), your current medications or another issue. Your ED also may have gotten worse because of stress, depression or anxiety. So it is crucial that you are evaluated by a urologist to determine the underlying cause and provide the right treatment. Remember also that erectile dysfunction may be a sign of another more serious health problem and will not be resolved if the underlying issue is not addressed. So you need to see a urologist to get a comprehensive, effective and safe treatment for your condition.

As urologists, we talk with our patients openly, get to know their medical history, conduct physical exams, and recommend treatment tailored to the individual. In many cases, we recommend erectile medications. But when the drugs fail, we have several alternatives to offer, ranging from penile injections and vacuum devices to penile implants. When you work with a urologist, your condition will be evaluated and the solution offered will not only improve your sexual health, but also boost your long-term health. For more information on the treatment of erectile dysfunction, visit the “Advanced Urology Institute” site.

Options for Treating Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

The prostate is a tiny gland situated between the bladder and the penis. But as men get older, the gland grows larger, putting pressure on the urethra and bladder and causing urinary problems. An enlarged prostate is medically called benign prostatic hyperplasia (or BPH), a condition that’s quite common in older men. In the U.S. around 50 percent of men 51-60 years old have BPH while up to 90 percent of men over age 80 are affected by the condition.

The common symptoms of an enlarged prostate are:

  1. Inability to delay urination.
  2. Urge to urinate more than 8 times a day.
  3. Frequently waking up at night to pass urine.
  4. Dribbling after urinating.
  5. Urinary incontinence (urinating accidentally).
  6. Inability to completely empty the bladder (urinary retention).
  7. Having intermittent or weak urine stream.
  8. Straining to pass urine or difficulty starting urination.

So what are the options for treating BPH?

As urologists, the first thing we do when a patient has symptoms is to rule out other possible problems. We talk with our patients to learn the nature and severity of their symptoms, conduct exams, do ultrasound and relevant tests. Once it’s confirmed that it is BPH, we begin treatment starting with the least invasive procedures. Treatment options for BPH include medication, minimally invasive procedures and surgery, although various lifestyle changes also can improve or prevent symptoms.

1. Medications

The urologist may recommend medication to help control prostatic growth and reduce symptoms. For instance, alpha blockers such as alfuzosin (Uroxatral), silodosin (Rapaflo), doxazosin (Cardura), tamsulosin (Flomax) and terazosin (Hytrin) may be used to relax prostate muscles and make it easier to urinate. They quickly increase urine flow and reduce the need to urinate frequently. Another type of medication that may be prescribed is 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, such as finasteride (Proscar) and dutasteride (Avodart), which limit the growth of the prostate by blocking hormones that promote growth of the gland. It generally takes 3-6 months for 5-alpha reductase inhibitors to relieve symptoms.

Phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) inhibitors such as Sildenafil, (Viagra), Tadalfil (Cialis) and Vardenafil (Levitra) may be given to help relax urinary tract muscles and relieve BPH symptoms. However, in some cases, particularly when either a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor or an alpha blocker isn’t effective on its own, urologists may give a combination therapy. This typically involves a combination of a 5-alpha reductase inhibitor and an alpha blocker and usually results in greater symptom relief.

2. Minimally invasive procedures

When medications fail to relieve BPH symptoms, the next step in treatment usually involves minimally invasive interventions. During the procedure, a urologist inserts an instrument into the rectum or urethra to either widen the urethra or destroy excess prostate tissue. For instance, TUMT (Transurethral Microwave Thermotherapy) uses microwaves to heat and destroy excess prostate tissue. TUMT does not cure BPH but makes it easier to pass urine, cuts down urinary frequency and reduces weak flow. Another treatment, TUNA (Transurethral Needle Ablation), uses high-frequency radio waves that are delivered via twin needles to burn a specific area of the prostate. TUNA is an outpatient procedure that relieves BPH symptoms and improves urine flow.

A third minimally invasive option for BPH is water-induced thermotherapy. During the treatment, hot water delivered through a catheter and into a treatment balloon located at the center of the prostate is used to heat up a definite area of the prostate and destroy problematic tissue. Once destroyed, the excess tissue is either reabsorbed in the body or excreted through urine. Another minimally invasive treatment option is the Urolift procedure, which involves inserting small implants into the prostate to retract, hold and lift the enlarged prostate tissue, opening up the passage for urine and relieving bladder blockage. While the Urolift procedure does not involve heating, cutting or removing the excess prostate tissue, it is effective in restoring normal flow of urine and relieving symptoms, and patients usually return home the same day without a catheter.

A revolutionary minimally invasive procedure for treating BPH is the Rezum system. During the treatment, sterile water vapor is injected into the prostate to help destroy overgrown tissue. It takes roughly three months for the body’s healing mechanisms to remove dead prostate cells and shrink the prostate, opening the passage for urine to flow. The Rezum procedure improves urine flow and relieves symptoms without the adverse effect of erectile dysfunction. It’s an ideal option for men who are medically unfit for the other procedures or for those already catheterized.

For prostates that have grown larger than 100 grams, a procedure called aquablation is a good option. It uses a high velocity saline jet to remove the overgrown prostate tissue. After the treatment is planned, the procedure is robotically driven, so its duration and side effects do not depend on prostate size. It does not use heat and postoperative bleeding is prevented by inserting a large catheter and applying a bladder washout (irrigation). The results achieved through aquablation are similar to TURP, except it comes with less dysuria and minimal irritation symptoms because no heat is used.

3. Surgical procedures for treating BPH

If both medication and minimally invasive procedures fail to improve BPH symptoms sufficiently, the urologist may recommend surgery. Surgical interventions also may be necessary if complications develop or symptoms become severe. The most common type of invasive surgery for BPH is TURP (Transurethral Resection of Prostate). In fact, it’s the first surgical option for treating BPH and involves the removal of excess prostate tissue by inserting a resectoscope through the urethra and into the prostate. Or the urologist can opt for TUIP (Transurethral Incision of Prostate) that involves making incisions in the bladder’s neck and into the prostate. The operation is done to widen the urethra and boost urine flow.

In other cases, the urologist may choose to perform laser surgery. This surgical procedure involves inserting a scope into the urethra and using the scope to deliver laser to the prostate tissue. The laser treats enlarged prostate through either enucleation (cutting) or ablation (melting). Both the GreenLight Laser PVP and Holmium laser ablation of prostate (HoLAP) procedures remove the excess prostate tissue by photoselective vaporization while holmium laser enucleation of prostate (HoLEP) uses two instruments, a laser for cutting and removing excess tissue and a morcellator for slicing extra tissue into tiny fragments for removal.

In complicated cases of BPH, such as men with much enlarged prostates or those with bladder damage, urologists may opt for open surgery. During an open simple prostatectomy, the urologist makes an incision just below the navel or numerous small incisions in the abdominal area via laparoscopy. The surgeon then removes the portion of the prostate that’s blocking urine flow.

At Advanced Urology Institute, our choice of treatment usually comes down to patient preferences and their ability to cope with BPH symptoms. We often prefer the least invasive options and give medication in many cases, but other treatment options are considered for patients who aren’t responding well to drugs or who can’t tolerate the adverse effects. As an alternative to TURP and open surgery, we prefer to treat BPH that’s characterized by acute urinary retention, high post-residual volume, recurrent urinary tract infections or bladder stones through the GreenLight Laser PVP or the newer heat treatments like TUNA and microwave. For more information on treatment options for BPH, visit the “Advanced Urology Institute” site.

Becoming a Urologist with Dr. Sean Heron

If I had to do it again, I would still happily choose urology. I really love urology and I’m always excited about the opportunity it offers to listen to people talk about distressing conditions, detect life-threatening conditions and make interventions that improve their lives. For me, the honor of being relied upon to offer advice, the awe of discovering problems in the genitourinary tract, the chance to provide life-improving and life-saving treatments, and the gratitude that comes with helping people through difficult illness — these things just never cease to motivate me. So even in my most stressful work days — when crushed by unbearable time constraints or enormous pressure — I have never felt anything like a drop in my passion for urology.

Why urology?

Ever since I was a child, I wanted to be a doctor. My mother, who was a teacher, realized this early and encouraged me to work hard in school to fulfill my dream. I went to Denison University for my undergraduate studies, then to Ohio State University for my medical degree, graduating in 1989. In medical school, I wasn’t really sure which field of medicine I wanted to specialize. In those days, the first two years of medical school were dedicated to intensive classwork and then in the third year we would go for clinical rotation.

When I went for my rotations, my first area was nephrology, medical care for kidneys. It was quite depressing working with patients with kidney problems and those under dialysis. I couldn’t figure out why patients who were not doing well were discharged to go home only to be back in the hospital the next day. This early experience shaped my attitude toward urology and at this stage, I felt strongly that I would never be a urologist.

We had eight choices as electives, including urology, but I didn’t want to work with kidneys and tried to avoid urology. However, as things turned out, I ended up picking urology. My eureka moment came when I watched from a side view as the prostate was being cut by a urologist. As the procedure went on before my eyes, I immediately changed my mind about urology.

That was my first real experience with urological surgery and it inspired my career choice and my lifelong commitment to the field. I completed a six-year urology and surgery residency at Emory University, Atlanta, Ga., and soon became a certified urologist by American Board of Urology. And even though I heard people say that urology was boring, I have found it fun and fascinating.

Areas of expertise

As a urologist, I offer diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care for a broad range of urological ailments and associated emotional issues. I routinely provide medical and surgical treatments for conditions such as kidney stones, urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction, male infertility, pelvic pain, urologic cancers and genitourinary tract injuries. But I also perform specialized laparoscopic, laser and robotic procedures for various conditions, such as laser enucleation and laser vaporization for prostatic problems, steam ablation (Rezum) of the prostate, da Vinci robot-assisted surgery for prostate and kidney issues and high-intensity focused ultrasound for prostate cancer. Most importantly, I believe that every patient has unique needs that must be fully understood by the urologist before treatment can commence. So I always make sure to take into account all the needs, concerns and presenting factors of every patient and to provide tailored treatments that meet the specific needs of individual patients.

Job satisfaction

Urologists manage genitourinary tract disorders medically and surgically, taking care of their patients from start to finish. The ability to fix urologic disorders, see the lives of your patients improve, have them enjoy life much better and establish enduring relationships with them is quite satisfying. Likewise, the chance to use some of the latest and most innovative technology, including scopes, lasers and robots for complex urology procedures makes the field continually interesting. Even though urology is a surgical subspecialty, we have far better working hours than in general surgery. There are much fewer urological emergencies and rarely are there painful trauma situations to handle, so urologists have more control over their work schedule and better control over their lives. While urology residency is quite grueling, it isn’t nearly as bad as general surgery residency. With urology you get a good mix of surgery and medicine and enjoy better working conditions and great outcomes, all of which makes it quite fulfilling.

Why Advanced Urology Institute?

When I was choosing urology, there were people around me who thought it was a boring field of medicine. So for me, the inspiration to join the specialty was not enough. I also wanted a practice that would make urology exciting and fun. Luckily I found that in Advanced Urology Institute. I joined AUI’s Pinellas Urology in 1995 and quickly found its collaborative, multidisciplinary and patient-centered approach to care useful in bringing out the best of my skills, knowledge and experiences. And with all administrative work centralized at AUI, there are no bothersome phone calls, electronic documentation, paperwork, quality assurance measures and insurance forms for me to deal with. That makes it easier for me to concentrate on providing the best possible care to my patients. So even if I can’t always guarantee that I’ll make my patients better, I have all the time to work out the best possible remedies for their conditions. For more information on urology and urological services offered by AUI, visit the “Advanced Urology Institute” site.