Frequently Asked Urology Questions

Questions about urology & the urological tract

What is urology?

Urology is a medical specialty focused on conditions and diseases of the genito-urinary tract in men, women and children. Urology is also concerned with disorders of the male reproductive system.

How does someone become a urologist?

Urologists are surgeons, and this is one reason it takes longer to become a urologist than to be a medical specialist in a number of other disciplines – usually 14 years of education and training after high school. A urologist is a physician who’s had four years of college, four years of medical school and at least two years of general surgical training, followed by another four years of specialty training in urologic surgery.

What does the term “urodynamics” mean?

Urodynamics are basically the mechanisms of your urinary tract. Urodynamic testing is an analysis of the functioning of the bladder, urethra, and muscles (sphincters) that control voiding, or the elimination of urine. These kinds of tests help a urologist treat problems with storing urine or voiding.

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What can I do to maintain good urologic health?

Generally, the best way to avoid urological problems is to maintain good overall health habits such as exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding tobacco, excessive alcohol and caffeine and diuretics (food or substances that remove water from the body).

Questions about urination

How many times a day does a healthy person urinate?

Urination frequency varies widely according to a number of factors, although for most healthy people going four to eight times a day is typical. More frequent urination or waking up at night to go to the bathroom might mean either a health problem or simply that you’re drinking too much at bedtime.

Are urination problems more of a problem for women than men?

Not necessarily, although urinary incontinence occurs about twice as often in females than males. Pregnancy, childbirth, menopause and female anatomy account for the difference. But of the approximately 12 million sufferers in the United States, about one-third are men. Male incontinence is often associated with prostate problems or treatments.

What increases women’s risk of incontinence?

Often it’s a combination of factors, such as having given birth multiple times, age, obesity and smoking. Other factors include a history of having given vaginal birth, having had hysterectomy, a post-menopause drop in estrogen, chronic bladder infections, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke and spinal cord injury. While age can be a contributor, no one should accept incontinence as an inevitability of growing older.

What increases the risk of incontinence for men?

For men incontinence may be related to a number of health conditions or medical treatments. It can also be caused by lifestyle or family history. Most men have decreased bladder capacity as they age, naturally increasing risk of incontinence to some degree. Other contributors can be smoking, obesity, a high consumption of alcohol and caffeinated and carbonated drinks and injury to the bladder. In addition, just as in women, neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease can play a role.

When should I see a doctor for incontinence?

Generally, it’s a good idea to call your doctor or schedule an appointment if you have a sudden onset of incontinence or if you’re having enough accidents that you need to either wear a pad for urine absorption or if incontinence is interfering with your lifestyle.

Questions about kidney stones

What causes the formation of kidney stones?

A change in the normal balance of water salts, mineral and other components in urine creates a process known as urolithiasis in which solid mineral particles cluster in the kidneys. There are different types of stones, including calcium oxalate, uric acid, ammonic magnesium and cystine.

Are there genetic factors in the tendency to get kidney stones?

Yes, such a tendency may be inherited. If others in your family have had them, you may be more prone to them, too.

How do I avoid kidney stones?

Drink lots of water with freshly squeezed lemon juice. Lemon juice contains citric acid, which not only inhibits stone formation but also breaks up small stones just beginning to form. Generally, the more citric acid in your urine, the more protected you are against forming new kidney stones. The most common cause of stones is an insufficient daily water intake. The goal should be to drink enough to keep your urine clear – about eight to ten glasses per day. In addition, studies have indicated that staying physically fit and keeping your weight in check can help as well.

Can diet be a factor in formation of stones?

Yes, levels of calcium, protein, sodium, vitamins C and D, and oxalate-rich foods (dark vegetables, chocolate, nuts, cranberries and coffee and tea, for example) can increase the chances of stones. In general, it’s a good idea to eat less salt and talk to a doctor or dietitian about how much calcium you need daily. If you have had an oxalate kidney stone, you should probably consume fewer oxalate-rich foods. In addition to the ones above, others include spinach, colas, peanuts, beets, rhubarb, berries, beans, tofu, oranges, sweet potatoes and draft beer.

What are other factors?

Certain groups of people are more prone to stones, and some medical conditions can be contributors. Men in their 30s, 40s and 50s are mostly likely to get stones, and postmenopausal women and women who have had their ovaries removed are at a higher risk than normal. Other contributors include frequent urinary tract infections (UTI), insulin resistance, cystic fibrosis, gout, inflammatory bowel disease, gastric bypass surgery, hyperparathyroidism, high blood pressure, and bladder problems resulting from spinal injuries.

Questions about male urological health

What causes prostate cancer?

No one knows for certain. About one in ten men inherit the tendency toward prostate cancer, although no one has identified a “prostate cancer gene”. Men with a father or brother with prostate cancer diagnosed prior to age 64 have a three times greater risk than men in general. Men in this category should begin screening at age 40. In addition, there are links between diets rich in saturated fats and an increased incidence of prostate cancer, but this evidence is not conclusive.

If I live long enough, is it all but certain I will get prostate cancer?

No, although after skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common kind of cancer in American men. It does tend to strike later in life – more than three-quarters of cases are diagnosed in men older than 65.

What can I do to lower my chances of prostate cancer?

Scientists have found no known cause for prostate cancer. Nonetheless, common sense says to maintain good dietary and exercise habits, which in turn keep weight down. Eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and limiting the amount of calories from saturated fats is always a good idea for minimizing all health risks. Some studies have suggested that prostate cancer risk may be reduced by consuming zinc, soy and lycopene. Peanuts are a good source of selenium, and cooked tomatoes are an easily consumed source of lycopene.

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

One reason that screening for prostate cancer is so important as a man ages is that localized and curable prostate cancer has no symptoms. A decrease in the force of the urinary stream or other voiding issues is most likely due to BPH than prostate cancer. For men with localized prostate cancer and some urination problems, the explanation is that BPH is occurring coincidentally with the prostate cancer.
Men with advanced prostate cancer, however, may have similar symptoms as men with BPH, including blood in the urine, painful urination, and a decreased urinary flow. Fortunately, with today’s emphasis on screening and early detection, more than nine in ten prostate cancers are found in potentially curable stages.

Does having BPH make me more likely to get prostate cancer?

No, they are separate disease processes. BPH occurs in the center of the prostate gland known as the transition zone. The overwhelming majority of prostate cancers occur in the outside part of the prostate adjacent to the rectum, an area known as the peripheral zone.