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UrologyUrology is the field of medicine focusing on the function and disorders of the urinary systems of both males and females. It encompasses the urinary system organs and includes the adrenal glands, kidneys, urinary bladder, ureters and urethra. In addition, urology also covers the male reproductive system such as the penis, testes, vas deferens, epididymis, seminal vesicles and prostate. Medical professionals that specialize in urology are referred to as urologists and are trained to diagnose, treat and manage disorders of the urinary system.

The following are the three most common urologic issues among seniors:

Prostate cancer which forms in the tissues of the prostate gland located in the male reproductive system.  Rarely found in men under the age of 40, prostate cancer is most commonly found in men over the age of 60 and is the most common cause of death in men over the age of 75. Those who are at risk include men who:

  • have been exposed to agent orange and cadmium
  • have been exposed to chemicals at their job, such as tire plant workers, painters, and farmers
  • use alcohol in excess
  • are of African American descent
  • have/had a brother or father with prostate cancer

Enlarged Prostate, also called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or benign prostatic hypertrophy, is when man’s prostate gland has grown to the point where it presses on the tube where urine comes out of the body from the bladder, called the urethra. As a result, men may have issues with urinating and/or experience incontinence. The likelihood of developing an enlarged prostate increases with age. Many men over age 40 and more than 90% of men over age 80 have a small amount of prostate enlargement. The actual cause of prostate enlargement is not known, but age and the physiology of testicles themselves may play a role in developing an enlarged prostate. For example, if the testicles are removed from someone with an enlarged prostate, the prostate immediately begins to shrink. There are no known risk factors other than having testicles that function normally. An enlarged prostate is not cancer and does not increase a person’s risk of getting prostate cancer.

Bladder cancer is a type of cancer that forms in the tissues the bodily organ that holds and releases urine. Most people diagnosed with bladder cancer are over the age of 70. Those who are more likely to get bladder cancer are those who:

  • have had chronic bladder infections
  • have had radiation therapy
  • have had chemotherapy
  • smoke
  • have had bladder cancer caused by chemical exposure at work

Bladder stones are a build of minerals that form hard stones in the urinary bladder. Bladder stones are typically seen in men and the risk of developing bladder stones increases as a person ages. Bladder stones are commonly caused by other urinary issues such as:

  • urinary tract infections (UTI)
  • loss of bladder control due to brain, spinal cord or nerve conditions (neurogenic bladder)
  • small bulging pouches in the bladder (bladder diverticulum)
  • an enlarged prostate
  • foreign objects in the bladder

Bladder Outlet Obstruction (BOO) is a blockage similar to how an enlarged prostate functions. However, with BOO the blockage is at the base of the bladder. This blockage reduces or stops the flow of urine into the urethra. BOO can have many different causes, but the most common are:

  • an enlarged prostate
  • bladder cancer
  • pelvic tumors such as those found in the cervix, uterus, rectum or prostate
  • scar tissue in the urethra
  • bladder stones

Some of the less common causes are:

  • cystocele (when the bladder falls into the vagina)
  • urethral spasms
  • posterior urethral valves (birth defect in males)
  • foreign objects
  • urethral diverticula

While BOO can occur in both women and men, it is more commonly found in men and is often caused by an enlarged prostate, bladder stones and bladder cancer. Like prostate cancer and prostate enlargement, the chances of developing BOO increase with age.

Urinary incontinence occurs when a person loses the ability to control their bladder. Urinary incontinence can occur in both men and women, but is more common to women than men. The risk of urinary incontinence increases with age and can range in severity from mild to severe. When a person has mild urinary incontinence, it is referred to as stress incontinence. Stress incontinence occurs when the muscles in the bladder are weak. When the bladder is weak, it causes the occasional urine leakage when one sneezes, coughs or laughs. If it is severe, it is known as urge incontinence or overactive bladder, occuring when one’s bladder muscles are too active which can cause an uncontrollable urge to urinate even when one has very little urine in  their bladder. This can make it more challenging to get to a restroom in time and your loved one may have frequent urinary accidents as a result. Urinary incontinence can be caused by aging, physical issues, medical conditions and/or everyday routines. The causes of persistent urinary incontinence are:

  • changes brought on by aging
  • hysterectomy
  • Painful bladder syndrome (interstitial cystitis)
  • prostate cancer
  • enlarged prostate
  • prostatitis
  • Neurological disorders that cause nerve damage such as Parkinson’s disease, Multiple sclerosis, spinal injury, brain tumors, and stroke.
  • bladder cancer
  • bladder stones
  • obstructions

Conditions such as temporary incontinence may be treatable and preventable with certain changes in lifestyle. Temporary urinary incontinence has the same symptoms but may be brought on by certain medications, physical issues and foods or drinks. These may include:

  • alcohol
  • caffeine
  • bladder irritation brought on by drinking and eating certain food or drinks such as tea, coffee, highly spiced foods or beverages and citrus
  • drinking too much water
  • medications such as muscle relaxers, heart medications and high blood pressure medications
  • urinary tract infections which cause bladder irritation
  • constipation which causes overactive nerves or bladder obstruction causing overflow incontinence


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