The term “urologic diseases” describes a wide variety of conditions, all related to the processing and carrying of urine out of the body. They can affect men, women, and children of all ages.
These diseases affect very specific parts of the body. In females, they involve the urinary tract. In males, they affect the urinary tract and/or the reproductive organs.
There are many urologic disorders and diseases. The following are a selection of some of the diseases identified by the American Urological Association Foundation (AUAF) as common.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is an enlarged prostate. It is an increase in the size of the prostate gland. BPH is very common in older men. It is not caused by prostate cancer.
The symptoms of BPH are due to the pressure that a larger prostate can place on the urethra. The urethra is the narrow tube that carries urine from the bladder and out of the body.
Men with BPH may experience a frequent urge to urinate. They may also have a weak stream of urine when they do go and a feeling that the bladder is not empty after urination. Your doctor may choose to just monitor this condition or prescribe medications like alpha-blockers for treatment. It may also be addressed through surgery if it is severe.
Incontinence is a loss of bladder control. It results in the unwanted release of urine. This condition can be inconvenient and embarrassing for sufferers. However, it is far from uncommon. According to the AUAF, more than 15 million people in the U.S. have incontinence (AUAF, 2011).
There are numerous things that can cause incontinence. A few of the most common causes include:
- pregnancy or childbirth
- overactive bladder
- enlarged prostate
- weak bladder muscles
- weak sphincter muscles (muscles supporting the urethra)
- urinary tract infections
- diseases including Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis
- injury to the spinal cord
In some cases, simple measures such as controlling fluid intake can be enough to address the problem. If these approaches prove ineffective, your doctor may suggest surgery to correct the underlying cause.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
UTIs are the result of undesirable yeast, bacteria, or viruses that invade the urinary tract and cause infection. They are much more common in women, although men can get them too. According to the AUAF, roughly 40 percent of females and 12 percent of males will have a UTI that causes noticeable symptoms at some point in their lives (AUAF, 2011). A burning sensation during urination is one of the symptoms of a UTI. Others include a frequent urge to urinate and the feeling that the bladder is not completely empty after urinating. Antibiotics can usually clear up most UTIs within a few days.
Kidney and Ureteral Stones
Stones develop in the kidneys when there are crystals in the urine and small particles surround and collect on these crystals. Ureteral stones are ones that move from the kidney into the ureter (the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder).
These stones can block urine flow and cause a considerable amount of pain. Many people end up expelling these stones from the body without medical help, but this is not always the case.
Surgery may be needed in some instances. Shock wave lithotripsy is the most commonly used technique. This involves using sound waves to break stones into smaller pieces so they can more easily exit the body (AUAF, 2011).
Other Common Urological Conditions
Some other common urological conditions include:
- prostate cancer
- bladder cancer
- bladder prolapse
- hematuria (blood in the urine)
- erectile dysfunction
- interstitial cystitis (also called painful bladder syndrome)
- overactive bladder
- prostatitis (swelling of the prostate gland)
The American Urological Association Foundation offers several tips for promoting good urological health in adults and children, including:
- Stay hydrated.
- Drink cranberry juice to help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs).
- Limit the amount of salt and caffeine you consume.
- Stay within a healthy weight range.
- Choose a smoke-free lifestyle.
- Strengthen the muscles of the pelvic area with Kegel exercises.
Tips for Parents
- Encourage children to urinate immediately before bed.
- Limit fluid intake in the nighttime hours.
- Purchase athletic “cups” for young boys to help prevent injury in this sensitive area.
- Instruct young girls that they should use a front-to-back motion to wipe the genital area after going to the washroom. (AUAF, 2011)
It is vital to remember that you are the best advocate for your own urological health. The responsibility lies with you to schedule regular checkups with a urologist if indicated and make an appointment if you feel there may be a problem.