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The Doctor Guide: A Breakdown Of Different Specialties And When You Should See Them

Sarah Jenkins

The Doctor Guide: A Breakdown of Different Specialties And When You Should See Them

Have you been thinking about talking to a doctor about your bladder leakage problems, but just can’t muster the courage, or figure out exactly who you should talk to about it? You’re not alone. A recent poll from NAFC asked people who suffer from incontinence how long it took them to talk to their doctor.  Almost half of them waited at least a year before bringing it up (some as many as 6 + years!) and nearly 30% said they still hadn’t had the discussion.  We get it – incontinence can be an embarrassing subject to talk about – even with your doctor.  But the sooner you have the discussion, the sooner you can receive treatment. And besides, we’re pretty sure your doctor has probably had this discussion with many patients, many times before.

You may be wondering what type of doctor you should see.  That really depends.  Many primary care doctors treat incontinence and can be a good starting point, but for advanced treatment (especially if you are considering something like surgery), a urologist may be the better bet.  Here is a breakdown of some common specialties that treat incontinence.  Read through these and think about your own situation and treatment needs to determine the best option for you.

Family Medicine/Primary Care Physician.  

This type of doctor is a general practitioner and provides broad care to many acute, chronic and preventative medical conditions.  The Family Medicine doctor will help you identify the type of incontinence you have and talk with you about your options.  The family medicine doctor may prescribe medication or other treatment, or, for more advanced cases, refer you to a specialist focused in urology. 

Internist. 

Similar to Family Medicine doctors, Internists provide general care, but usually only to adults.  Internists can serve as a primary care physician, and provide comprehensive, long-term care for both common and complex diseases. 

Urologist. 

These doctors specialize in managing problems with the male and female urinary tract, and male reproductive organs.  Most urologists are surgeons, and many may specialize further in a sub-specialty, such as pediatrics, female urology or gynecology.

Urogynecologist.

An OB-GYN who has advanced training in pelvic floor dysfunction in women. Women with stress urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse are often referred to a urogynecologist for treatment.

Physical Therapist.

Physical Therapists, or “PTs” that focus on women’s health often treat pelvic floor disorders, which cover a wide range of problems such as incontinence, pelvic pain, pelvic organ prolapse, or joint pain.  The focus of physical therapy is to strengthen and relax the muscles of the pelvic floor and to design physical activity programs that help the patient in these areas.

OBGYN. 

A doctor specialized in obstetrics and gynecology is a doctor who manages the reproductive health of women, family planning, pregnancy, and postnatal health. 

Gynecologist.  

A Gynecologist specializes in the reproductive health of women.  Some gynecologists have special training in diagnosing and treating urinary incontinence and prolapse (often urogynecologists).

Geriatrician. 

A geriatrician is a doctor that specializes in the care of older adults. They typically train as a family practitioner or internal medicine doctor, and then spend at least one extra year completing a geriatrics fellowship. Diseases, medications and illnesses can sometimes affect older people differently than younger patients, and a geriatrician is specially trained to handle these cases. Not everyone needs to see one though – if you have established a relationship with a family practitioner or internal medicine doctor and are happy with your care, feel free to continue! But, if as an older adult, you are suffering from a number of diseases or impairments (physical or cognitive) you may want to consult with a geriatrician who has received specialized training in treating patients over the age of 65.

Gastroenterologist. 

A gastroenterologist is a doctor that has received special training in managing diseases related to the gastrointestinal tract and liver. They study how materials move through the stomach, how they digest and absorb into the body, and then how they are removed as waste from the system. Gastroenterologists typically treat colon cancer, GERD (heartburn), hemorrhoids, bloody stool, ulcers, gallbladder issues, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and pancreatitis. You will typically be referred to a Gastroenterologist by your FP or internist if you experience any abnormalities related to your stools, or digestion, including blood in your stool, difficulty swallowing or abdominal pain. Additionally, many men and women over 50 receive screening for colon cancer from a gastroenterologist.

Dietitian. 

A dietitian is a health care professional that treats nutritional problems in patients. They typically work with both sick and healthy people to formulate food and nutrition plans for patients based on their conditions, and help them incorporate them into their lifestyle. Dietitians may be helpful to patients looking to modify their food intake to avoid bladder irritants.

Once you’ve determined the best doctor to see for your incontinence, it’s time to make an appointment!  Use the NAFC Specialist Locator to find a doctor near you and call them today.  You’ll be that much closer to managing and treating your symptoms.