Unlike men, women tend not to be shy about going to the doctor. Women start seeing their OB/GYN for “lady issues” in their teens. Many women add a great primary care provider to their healthcare team in young adulthood as well.
But when should a woman see a urologist? Most people think of a urologist as “the old man” doctor (for the record age is only a number). While we certainly see our fair share of men over age 65, many women have urologic issues that we can help address.
Let’s review all of the painful and/or embarrassing issues that can be addressed when you see a urologist. Allow our experts to guide you to an individualized plan of care so you can get back to living the life you deserve.
Urinary Tract Infections
UTIs can be triggered by:
- Sexual activity (common in college-aged women)
- Hormone deficiencies (post-menopausal)
- Poor water intake
Contrary to popular belief, getting a UTI does not mean “you’re dirty” and have bad hygiene. Other than infrequent urination, there’s often little you can do alone to stop these buggers from wreaking havoc in your bladder.
When a woman sees a urologist for a UTI, she will receive the correct antibiotics quickly to extinguish the fire in her bladder. A urologist will also review the potential causes for her UTIs and discuss preventative strategies. In some cases, a urology evaluation is necessary to rule out abnormalities of the urinary tract which may lead to recurrent bladder infections.
Pelvic Prolapse (bulging)
It can be quite disconcerting the first time a woman notices something bulging from the vagina. Pelvic prolapse is seen when the vaginal walls and pelvic muscles can no longer support the pelvic organs. For example, when women state they have a “dropped bladder” what they are really saying is that they have pelvic prolapse.
A number of doctors can effectively evaluate a woman for pelvic prolapse:
Bladder leakage is all too common. Over 30 million women in the U.S. alone suffer with urinary incontinence. Unfortunately most women will choose to tolerate wet panties and pads instead of seeing a urologist.
Grandma and mom were wrong when they told you bladder leakage is “part of getting older”. It is NEVER NORMAL TO WET YOURSELF. When a woman sees a urologist for bladder leakage there is almost always a cure available.
Younger women first start to notice bladder leakage after their first child. An unexpected laugh or workout in the gym puts stress on the bladder and the urethra can no longer hold in the tee-tee (the Southern term for urine that I learned as a Yankee). This leakage with activity has several treatment options:
DIY Kegel Exercises
At-home bladder conditioning devices
Pelvic physical therapy
As a woman ages, she may also notice symptoms of an overactive bladder (OAB):
Leakage with little to no warning (urge incontinence)
When a woman sees a urologist for urge incontinence, the urologist will first address any contributing lifestyle factors like too much caffeine intake or constipation. Next, the urologist will rule out other urologic conditions that might be causing your bladder troubles. Finally they will discuss a treatment plan including medications or minimally invasive procedures.
Acute and chronic pelvic pain can have a number of causes. It may be related to the female organs or the gastrointestinal tract. As part of the workup, a woman should see a urologist to evaluate for bladder problems.
Acute (sudden onset) pain can be caused by UTIs or kidney stones. A chronic, lingering pain may be due to painful bladder syndrome (e.g. interstitial cystitis or IC). In either situation, a urologist can deliver expert care.
Evaluation will include a thorough history, urine sample and some further testing. Some women have already seen a urologist for pelvic pain but are not satisfied with the care. Maybe you should consider a second opinion with a compassionate physician who listens to your concerns.
Women would rather give birth without anesthesia than attempt to pass a kidney stone. 10% of women will have a kidney stone in their lifetime. 50% of women will have a recurrent stone. No fun.
Assuming the kidney stone did not require surgical attention, a woman should definitely see a urologist in follow-up to discuss stone prevention. Dietary recommendations and 24 hour urine collections will identify metabolic abnormalities that led to the stone in the first place.
Blood in the Urine
Blood in the urine (hematuria) should never be considered normal until you’ve confirmed with the expert. Although microscopic hematuria may not require anything beyond a conversation, gross hematuria (visible to the naked eye) usually requires a more thorough evaluation including x-rays and an endoscopy (cystoscopy or look inside the bladder).
Everything from bladder infections to kidney stones to cancer (bladder or kidney cancer) can present with blood in the urine. A woman should see a urologist for hematuria since urologists are experts of the urinary tract. Don’t assume the blood is “normal” until a urologist has given you the “OK.
It’s important that all women are empowered to take control of their urinary tract health. UTIs, kidney stones and bladder leakage all have solutions. The key is seeing the right doctor. Not sure if you have time to set aside for a traditional doctor's visit? There are a lot of great reasons why you should schedule a telemedicine visit and get the professional care you need from the comfort of your own home.
When a woman sees a urologist, she will receive expert care of her bladder, kidneys and lady business. Although these issues can be embarrassing, there is no reason for a woman to suffer in silence. Get the care you deserve today!