Urologists are physicians who specialize in treating the male and female urinary systems, as well as the organs of the male reproductive system. Because men and women can both have problems with their urinary tract systems, many women see urologists for treatment. According to board certified urologist Dr. Howard Epstein, “We usually see women for things like bladder cancer, kidney stones, kidney cancer or incontinence.” Recurring urinary tract infections is another common reason for women to see a urologist.
Although both men and women see urologists, they usually see urologists for different reasons. For instance, women are more prone to urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control which can cause urine leaks. The degree of the severity of incontinence varies on a case-by-case basis. Some women experience urinary leakage when they laugh, cough or exercise. Urinary incontinence is so common in women that at least half of older women experience some degree of it. Urologists can treat incontinence with a wide range of options, including lifestyle changes, medication, devices, and in some cases surgery.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are another issue that brings many women, especially older women, to their urologist’s office. UTIs are another urinary issue that can affect both men and women, but they are far more common in women than men. About half of all women will have a UTI in their lifetimes, while only 1 in 10 men will. UTIs are infections that happen in the bladder or urethra. Symptoms include burning while urinating, frequent urges to urinate, and pain in the lower back and abdomen. Urologists can prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.
Kidney stones are another issue for which women seek help from their urologist. These stones, made of salt and mineral deposits in the kidneys, can become lodged in the urinary tract causing a wide range of issues. Symptoms include pain, nausea, vomiting, and even fever. In some cases, the pain can be so severe that some women liken it to childbirth, if not worse. There are several treatment options available for kidney stones, and finding the right one depends on the size and location of the stone. Shock wave lithotripsy can be used as a non-invasive way to break up the stones into small, easily passable pieces. In some cases, more invasive extraction methods might be needed.
All of these urological treatment options, from medications to surgeries, have their side effects. It is important for women to be able to have conversations with their urologist about their health issues and the possible side effects of treatment. For many women with urinary problems, the path to relief begins with a consultation with a urologist at the Advanced Urology Institute.