Genitourinary disorders are conditions that affect the genitourinary system, which includes the urinary and reproductive systems. Some are congenital, and others are acquired later in life.
There are many genitourinary conditions. Some can affect anyone, some are more common in or only affect people assigned male at birth (AMAB), and others only affect people assigned female at birth (AFAB).
Let’s start with common genitourinary disorders that can affect anyone. These include:
- urinary tract infection (UTI)
- kidney stones
- sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as HPV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea
- interstitial cystitis
The following are common genitourinary conditions in people AMAB:
- benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
- erectile dysfunction
- undescended testes
- hernia, particularly inguinal and femoral hernias
The following are
- vaginal yeast infection
- ovarian cysts
- uterine fibroids
- polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM)
Less common genitourinary disorders include cancers that affect the genitourinary system. Some of these include:
The symptoms of genitourinary disorders depend on the specific disorder and can range from mild to severe.
Common symptoms you may notice if you have a genitourinary disorder include:
The causes and risk factors vary between disorders, but the following factors are common:
- Physical exam: During a physical exam, your healthcare professional may manually check for swollen lymph nodes and areas of tenderness. They may also perform a pelvic exam to check the cervix and uterus, or a digital rectal exam to check the prostate.
- Blood tests: A healthcare professional will likely order blood tests to check kidney function and for signs of infection and cancer.
- Urinalysis: A sample of your urine can be analyzed to check for blood, bacteria, and elevated levels of specific proteins.
- X-ray: Plain X-rays may be used to check the size and position of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder and to look for kidney stones, tumors, and obstruction.
- Ultrasound: Ultrasound can check the genitourinary system for stones, enlarged prostate, ovarian cysts, and other genitourinary conditions.
- Uroflowmetry: This test is used to evaluate how well your urine flows. It checks the speed and amount of urine, which can help determine whether something obstructs your urine flow, like an enlarged prostate.
- Retrograde cystoscopy: For this test, a contrast dye is injected into the bladder, and X-rays or CTs are used to view the bladder while the bladder looks for tumors, blood clots, and other issues.
- Intravenous pyelogram: An intravenous pyelogram is similar to cystoscopy and uses injected dye to check the urinary tract for abnormalities.
- Ureteroscopy: A ureteroscopy is used to diagnose and treat stones in the kidney and other conditions affecting the ureters.
- MRI: An MRI scan uses magnets and radio waves to capture detailed images of the inside of the body.
- CT scan: A CT scan uses computers and rotating X-ray machines to create cross-sectional or 3D images of the inside of the body. It can check the genitourinary system for stones, obstructions, cysts, tumors, and injuries.
Treatment for genitourinary disorders depends on the specific condition being treated. These may include:
- Healthy lifestyle changes: Your clinician may recommend incorporating healthy lifestyle habits, such as drinking more water and reducing stress, to help improve your symptoms and kidney health.
- Antibiotics: You may be prescribed antibiotics if you have a bacterial infection.
- Antifungal drugs or creams: These are used to treat fungal infections, such as yeast infections.
- Other medications: Medications may be prescribed to treat your symptoms. Some examples are overactive bladder medications, erectile dysfunction pills, and hormonal birth control for endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome.
- Surgery: Surgery, which can involve minimally invasive procedures or open surgery, may remove kidney stones and cancerous and noncancerous tumors, obstructions, or reconstruct parts of the genitourinary system.
- Cancer treatments: Cancer that affects the genitourinary system may be treated with one or more cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and sometimes surgery.
The outlook varies depending on the type of genitourinary disorder and other factors, such as your age and overall health, the severity of the disease, and what treatments are used.
Most common genitourinary disorders can often be treated with a combination of medication and healthy lifestyle habits. Prompt diagnosis and treatment can reduce the risk of complications.
Consult with a healthcare professional about what to expect and what you can do to improve your condition and prognosis.
A primary care physician or general practitioner is a good place to start. They can refer you to the right type of specialist based on your symptoms and condition.
Depending on the disorder, genitourinary disorders are usually treated by one of more specialists, including:
If your condition is taking a toll on your mental health, finding help is essential. Here are a few options:
- Talk with a trusted friend or family member.
- Ask your primary care doctor for a referral.
- Call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s national helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or use their online treatment locator.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.