Urology is the medical specialty devoted to two primary subjects: the study of the human urinary system and the study of the genital and sexual health of males. Urine testing is extremely common as samples are easy to collect and offer a wealth of information about vital bodily functions. Urologists care for patients whose urine tests suggests disease or abnormalities within the urinary tract or male reproductive system. Occasionally, these tests reveal other conditions which require treatment from a different medical specialist.

What is a Urologist?

A urologist is a specialist that works with diseases of the urinary tract and male reproductive system. They test and evaluate the color and content of urine to assess various aspects of your health. Test results indicate what foods you have consumed and your exposure to environmental chemicals. Additionally, test results suggest involvement in certain behaviors or activities.

Reasons to See a Urologist

Both men and women visit the urologist when they are experiencing urinary tract concerns, such as infections or diseases in the kidneys, bladder or the tubes that connect those organs. Children treated by a urologist may have urinary tract instabilities that prevent them from staying dry and may cause bed-wetting.

Additional Responsibilities of Urologists for Men

Men will also see the urologist to maintain their genital and reproductive health. Just as women have regular gynecological check-ups, men should have regular check-ups of their external and internal reproductive organs, including the penis, scrotum, testicles and prostate gland.

The male reproductive system generates the sperm that fertilizes the female's egg, so keeping it healthy ensures healthy sperm and healthy babies. Problems can occur anywhere along the system and will become more prevalent with age.

Cancer can develop in any aspect of the reproductive system but most commonly in the prostate gland of older men. Prostate cancer is usually slow-growing and less likely to be life-threatening. However, any cancer diagnosis is significant and should be followed closely by an oncologist (the cancer doctor).

Urologists also perform vasectomies to close off the tubes that carry sperm to the urethra.  This procedure is elective, and reversal is possible.

For more specialized male health care, a urologist may recommend seeking the care of an andrologist.

What Urologists Consider When Examining a Urine Sample

When our bodies break down food and liquids, tissue cells consume energy and secrete waste products, which can be harmful to the body if not removed. Urine is the fluid by which those waste products are carried through and out of the body. The wastes are filtered out by the kidneys and stored in the bladder until they pass.

A urine sample contains a record of how the body is functioning overall, as well as virtually everything that has affected it within the previous 12 to 24 hours. Urologists look at its color and concentration, as well as its chemical content, to determine if it contains evidence of disease.

Urine Color

Urine color can vary considerably patient-to-patient but is generally close to yellow. Every different hue indicates a different health factor.

  • Yellow is the color of normal urine and can range from almost clear to deep yellow. Dehydration, a lack of water in the urine, generally causes its color to darken.
  • Orange urine indicates that health problems may lurk in other areas of the body or that the person has ingested something that leaves orange residue in the body. Liver cancer often produces a dark brown or orange urine color. Certain drugs or medicines can cause the urine to turn orange until the kidneys thoroughly flush them from the system.
  • Red urine usually indicates the presence of blood and is a warning sign that something may be very wrong. Bladder cancer, kidney stones or infections can cause bleeding within the urinary tract, so even the slightest pink or red blush in the urine will trigger a more exhaustive search for a health problem.
  • In some circumstances, urine can become a cooler, darker color. Green or blue urine suggests an infection or the ingestion of a drug that turns the urine blue as it metabolizes. Purple or black urine is often an indicator of kidney failure.

Any occasion that your urine color seems abnormal is cause for concern. Unless the change is related to the food you have eaten, medications you’ve taken, or dehydration, you should contact your doctor for further care. Your doctor should always be alerted if you suspect your urine contains blood. Though some causes can be harmless, others may be life-threatening. Your doctor can determine the cause of the discoloration and make necessary treatment decisions.

Urine Contents

Science has discovered more than 3,000 different compounds in urine and has organized those compounds into 230 different chemical classes. The three primary compounds composing urine are urea, uric acid, and creatinine. Other materials found in urine include bacteria and remnants of drugs, foods and environmental factors.

How Urologists are Certified

Urologists are fully trained medical doctors who have additional training and skills in the field of urology. Most are board certified, meaning they've passed tests to distinguish themselves as an expert in urology. All board-certified urologists register with the American Board of Urology.

Referrals and Research

Most urologists, like other specialists, require a referral from your primary care doctor. PCPs may have experts they prefer to work with but feel free to do some research on your own.

Consider using review sites like CareDash to find a specialist with satisfied patients and a significant amount of experience.

Questions for Your New Urologist

When first meeting the urologist, most patients should seek clarification about what their diagnosis means, what to expect during treatment for their urinary ailment and what their future looks like after treatment. Consider asking your urologist the following:

  • Does the doctor have a diagnosis?
  • What treatment options are available?
  • Are there any long-range treatment strategies the doctor can suggest?
  • Are any lifestyle aspects, such as diet or medication, contributing to my symptoms or conditions?
  • Should I be worried about my outlook?
  • Will I require surgical treatment?

Remember to consider the answers to these questions after your visit. Make sure you have a urologist you trust. Don't be afraid to seek a second opinion, especially if you have a serious diagnosis.