CAREER GUIDES

Here's how urologists diagnose and treat a wide range of disorders affecting men and women

Image: 123RF/convisum.

The urogenital system is a triumph of biological engineering. The urinary tract is a vital part of the waste or excretory disposal network.

About a litre of blood flows through the kidneys every minute and from this, the kidneys extract water and wastes and release urine. The urine then moves to the bladder through narrow tubes, the ureters.

There are eight subspecialty areas of urology: paediatric urology, urologic oncology, renal transplantation, male infertility, urinary tract stones, female urology, neuro-urology, and erectile dysfunction or impotence.

Paediatric urologists treat urological problems in children, including hypospadius and circumcisions.

Urologic oncologists treat cancers of the male and female urinary tract and the male reproductive organs, including the prostate, bladder, penile and testicular cancers in men, and kidney and bladder cancers in women.

Renal transplantation specialists perform kidney transplants and male infertility specialists work with men to treat problems in fathering children.

Urologists often work closely with other specialists, such as nephrologists, endocrinologists and oncologists, since all of these areas are related. Urologists may in fact work in a clinic that offers various medical services and procedures to patients.

They examine patients using equipment such as x-ray machines and fluoroscopes, to determine the nature and extent of the disorder or injury.  They treat lower urinary tract dysfunctions using equipment such as diathermy machines, catheters, cystoscopes and radium emanation tubes.

Urologists treat urologic disorders using alternatives to traditional surgery such as shock wave lithotripsy, laparoscopy and laser techniques. They order and interpret the results of diagnostic tests, such as prostate specific antigen screening, to detect prostate cancer.

Specialists in urinary tract stones treat kidney stones, which are formed when urine becomes too concentrated and chemicals that usually dissolve, crystallise instead, sometimes causing severe pain. Kidney stones can be removed surgically and can usually be prevented from reoccurring.

Female urologists diagnose and treat urinary incontinence, pelvic outlet relaxation disorders, and genitourinary trauma. Neuro-urology is the area that treats disorders caused by neurological trauma, or neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, or spina bifida.

Finally, some doctors specialise in erectile dysfunction or impotence and help men who have difficulties achieving or sustaining an erection.

They provide urology consultations to physicians or other health care professionals, and refer patients to specialists when the condition is outside their area of expertise.

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