Recognising the symptoms of common urologic diseases

By Island Hospital   |   Oct 11, 2019 5:26:41 PM

Urologic diseases are conditions that affect the ureter, urethra, bladder, and kidneys. While urologic conditions can affect both men and women, some conditions are gender-specific (e.g. prostate cancer) while some are more common in a specific gender due to the difference in anatomy. Moreover, the signs and symptoms may vary or overlap for some diseases.

Knowing the signs and symptoms for urologic diseases allows you to quickly spot them so you can receive diagnosis and treatment. In this blog, we will list down several urologic diseases and the common symptoms that you should look out for.

Kidney stones are comprised of uric acid or calcium and form when your body’s waste is not expelled properly in your urine. When you do not drink sufficient water, your urine is incapable of diluting minerals. These minerals will become concentrated and form lumps of hardened salt and minerals; which can also travel to other parts of the urinary tract.

Kidney stones can come in different sizes – from as small as a grain of rice to as big as the entire kidney. While smaller kidney stones will exit the body without requiring any treatment; some small-sized stones and the larger ones can cause unbearable pain and may require surgical intervention to be removed.

The common symptoms of kidney stones include:

  • Pain in the back, belly, or side
  • Pain or burning sensation during urination
  • Urgent and frequent trips to the toilet
  • Blood in the urine
  • Cloudy/smelly urine
  • Urinating in small amounts
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and chills

Ranked as one of the most common cancers in Malaysian men, prostate cancer occurs in the part of the male body where sperms are nourished and transported. In most cases, the growth of cancer is very slow and is confined only within the prostate, showing very little signs and symptoms. These cases of prostate cancer require “watchful waiting”, where no treatment is provided and the doctor performs periodic tests to see if the cancer is growing.

However, rare cases of prostate cancer have the potential to become more pervasive and life-threatening. As a person’s prostate cancer advances in stage, the following symptoms might show:

  • Having trouble urinating
  • Pain while urinating
  • Blood in urine
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Blood in sperm
  • Constipation
  • Dripping urine
  • Prolonged lower back pain

Therefore, early detection of prostate cancer is the key to determine the odds of successful treatment. Risk factors that increase one’s risk for this disease are:

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Obesity

Urinary tract infection (UTI) is a urologic disease that primarily affects the lower urinary tract, which consists of the bladder and urethra (a tube that transports urine from the bladder). This disease is more likely to occur in women than men due to the fact that women have a shorter urethra; which allows bacteria easy access to the bladder from the vagina or anus.

Activities such as sexual intercourse may also encourage bacteria to attack the urethra, and sexually active individuals may experience recurring infections after sexual intercourse. The best way to avoid getting a UTI is to thoroughly clean your genitals from front to back after using the washroom and drink plenty of water to flush out the bacteria from your body.

The main symptoms of UTI are:

  • A persistent urge to urinate
  • Feeling a burning sensation while urinating
  • Small but frequent periods of urination
  • Cloudy or very smelly urine
  • Blood-tinged urine
  • Pelvic pain

If the infection is left untreated, the bacteria will make its way to the kidneys and cause serious damage to the kidneys. A person with an infection in the bladders or kidneys may show further symptoms such as high fever, nausea, vomiting, and lower abdominal pain.

For more information on urinary tract infections and how it affects women, you can read our blog at: https://www.islandhospital.com/en/health_blog/en/urinary-tract-infections-uti-in-women

This is a condition where you experience pain or pressure at the bladder accompanied by frequent urges to go the toilet. Normally, the bladder will expand until it reaches full capacity before sending signals to the brain, which then results in you feeling the need to urinate.

However, when a person develops interstitial cystitis; the signals in the body become confused. You may feel a frequent urge to urinate but only urinate in small volumes. This condition affects women more often than men, and symptoms of interstitial cystitis in men are often associated with prostatitis instead.

The symptoms of interstitial cystitis include:

  • Pain between the vagina and anus (for women) or pain between the scrotum and anus (for men)
  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Frequent urges to urinate
  • Frequent urination (in small volumes) throughout the day and night
  • Pain or discomfort when the bladder contains and releases urine
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

Testicular cancer is not as common as prostate cancer, but it is also known to be a cancer that affects young men more than the elderly. It is the most common cancer that occurs in men between the ages of 15 to 40, and may even develop in children.

However, testicular cancer is highly treatable and can be spotted in its earlier stages by regularly performing a testicular self-examination (TSE) or through a physical examination with your doctor. When examining your testicle, look out for the following signs and symptoms:

  • A lump or enlargement in either testicle
  • Changes in the scrotum, such as a feeling of heaviness or pain
  • Fluid gathering inside the scrotum, causing it to swell uncomfortably
  • Dull ache in the scrotum, groin or abdomen
  • Enlargement or tenderness of the male breast tissue
  • Swelling in one or both legs

Testicular cancer usually affects only one testicle; but it not impossible to have cancer develop in both testicles.

To read more about prevention, symptoms and treatment for testicular cancer, check out our blog at: https://www.islandhospital.com/en/health_blog/testicular-cancer

There are ways in which you can help prevent an early onset of urological diseases. Here are six practical steps you can take to achieve this:

  • Drink lots of water: Staying constantly hydrated is one of the best ways in preventing kidney stones from forming. By simply drinking an additional 1.5 litres of water each day, you can reduce your risk of UTI by 50%.
  • Drink cranberry juice: Unsweetened cranberry juice helps play a role in preventing UTIs because it prevents bacteria from attaching to the bladder walls. If you are looking for alternatives to juice, cranberry supplements can also be found as capsules or tablets. Most importantly, you need to keep an eye out on the proanthocyanidins (PAC) level. The amount of cranberry in the juice/tablets is irrelevant; at least 36mg of PAC for it to be effective.
  • Cut down salt intake: Consuming too much sodium will disrupt the balance of minerals in the body, increasing a person’s risk of kidney stones. While it is impossible to completely eliminate salt from your diet, you can still limit your intake of high-sodium foods. In the long run, this reduces your risk of kidney stones or kidney disease.
  • Reduce caffeine intake: Caffeine found in coffee, tea, and energy drinks often act as a diuretic substances that cause your body to expel more water. This increases your urge to urinate and may also cause dehydration. Limit your caffine intake or opt for decaffeinated beverages every now and then.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking has been identified as a major risk factor for kidney stones, and interstitial cystitis. People who quit smoking will significantly reduce their risk of cancers and urologic diseases.
  • Exercise regularly: A lack of exercise and excess weight has been associated with an increased risk of kidney stones and prostate cancer. Start off with simple exercises such as swimming, cycling, and yoga as it helps to strengthen the primary stomach muscles, which in turn will relieve pressure on the bladder.
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