Want to know what to expect at your first appointment with a urologist? Read below for an overview.
Many people see their primary care physician to receive treatment for their incontinence. This can be a great option for most – after all, you likely have a history with your primary care doc and are comfortable with them – something that can be a huge help when discussing something as intimate as incontinence. And, these doctors are great at narrowing down the type of incontinence you may have and providing you with some first-line treatment options.
However, if you’re looking for additional help, or not seeing improvements in your symptoms with a primary care doctor, you may wish to see a urologist. In fact, your doctor may even recommend one to you if your case is severe or complicated.
Let’s start with some basics.
WHAT IS A UROLOGIST?
Urologists are specialists that treat anything related to the urinary tract, male reproductive system, or male fertility issues. Urologists are also trained in treating diseases or conditions that affect these organs. Urologists can provide medical or even surgical treatment to patients.
WHAT KINDS OF CONDITIONS DOES A UROLOGIST TREAT?
The urinary tract and male reproductive systems are complex, meaning that there are several conditions that would fall under a urologist’s realm. Some of the conditions urologists treat are:
- Incontinence or other bladder issues (urinary retention, overflow incontinence, stress urinary incontinence, or urge incontinence)
- Overactive Bladder
- Kidney Disease
- Male Fertility Issues (urologists also perform vasectomies)
- Bladder Prolapse
- Enlarged Prostate
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Peyronie’s Disease
- Kidney Stones
- Interstitial Cystitis
- Cancers related to the bladder, kidneys, prostate, testicles, or urinary tract
DO UROLOGISTS TREAT WOMEN?
While many people think of urologists as treating only men, they also treat women. Urologists specialize in treating conditions that affect the urinary tract and that includes the female urinary tract, as well as males.
Women may look to a urologist for help with conditions such as UTIs, incontinence, overactive bladder, fallen bladder (pelvic organ prolapse), interstitial cystitis (also known as painful bladder syndrome), kidney stones, or cancers affecting the bladder, kidneys, or urethra.
WHEN SHOULD I SEE A UROLOGIST?
Incontinence isn’t the only reason to visit a urologist. If you have any of the problems listed below:
- Incontinence or bladder leakage
- Blood in your urine
- Feeling an intense urge to urinate frequently
- Trouble urinating, including a weak stream, or trouble starting urinating
- Pain in your lower back
- Painful urination, which may indicate an infection
- A lump in your testicle (men)
- Erectile dysfunction (problems with maintaining an erection)
- Low sexual desire in men
WHAT CAN I EXPECT WHEN I GO TO SEE A UROLOGIST?
At your first appointment, your doctor will want to get to know you, your medical history, and the reason for your visit. Be prepared to talk about your incontinence with them or any other issues you might be having. Being upfront with your physician about what you’re experiencing is the best way for them to create an appropriate treatment plan for you.
Sometimes it’s helpful to bring a completed bladder diary to your doctor’s office. A bladder diary is a log that keeps track of any leaks you have, what you were doing at the time of the leaks, and what you have been eating recently. A bladder diary can paint a helpful picture for a doctor of how heavy your leaks are if you experience them at consistent times, and how your diet may affect your leaks. You can download a free one here and complete it before your appointment.
Your appointment will likely start with a urine sample so be sure to come with a full bladder! You’ll also need to fill out some basic paperwork to help the urologist, and his staff, learn a little bit about you and why you’re there. You’ll be asked about various health conditions you have, the reason for your visit, and any medications or supplements you’re taking. Be as thorough as you can in your answers. Your replies will help your doctor get a good picture of your medical history and the symptoms you’re experiencing.
After that, you’ll speak with your urologist. Seeing a new doctor can feel intimidating, and talking about some medical conditions may feel embarrassing to you. Writing down questions you have, or things you’d like to make sure you cover in advance is a good idea so that you don’t forget anything during your appointment. Tell your doctor what you’re experiencing, how long you’ve experienced it, and anything else you think may be relevant to your condition.
Once your doctor has a good idea of your history and concerns, he or she will perform a physical exam. This will be different for both men and women and may differ depending on what your symptoms are.
Men experiencing prostate trouble may need a rectal exam, while women may need a pelvic exam. Your doctor may also do blood tests, imaging scans, PSA tests, or other urological exams to get a better understanding of your condition.
After your physical exam, your doctor will talk with you about your condition, and recommend one or several treatment options. Be sure to bring a notebook to jot down important information you may need later. If you’re presented with various treatment options you may wish to write those down and do your own research on the pros and cons before making a treatment decision.
In the end, urologists are specialists who are well versed in conditions like incontinence. It can be scary to talk about conditions like this with someone new but rest assured, yours is not the first story they have heard. Be open and honest with your urologist, and share your concerns with him or her to ensure you’re making the most of your appointment.
For more tips on talking to your doctor, visit our talking to your doctor guide.