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It's Urology Awareness Month

It’s Urology Awareness Month, so we’d like to shine a light on some of the unsung heroes of medicine!

You may have some idea of what urology is. But if you’ve never had an appointment or needed treatment then it’s understandable if the word isn’t ringing any bells. For your health (and peace of mind), all guys should start seeing a urologist from the age of 40, so urology is an area of medicine that’s worth getting your head around. 

What is urology? 

Urology is the field of medicine that deals with the urinary tract. So that includes the kidneys and bladder for all sexes, and the male reproductive system. 

What can a urologist help with? 

A urologist can help with issues like stones, tumours, and incontinence, but also male fertility issues. Any conditions in the male reproductive system – testes, penis, prostate – are investigated and treated by urologists. They’re there to figure out what may be causing you pain or discomfort, but also to help you become a parent.

Many conditions can be checked and treated by your GP. But if you need specialist treatment then this is where a urologist can step in. Fertility is an area that usually requires more specialist treatment and guidance than most GPs are able to give you, so a urologist can be a very helpful health practitioner during your fertility journey.

How is a urologist different from a fertility specialist at a clinic? 

A male fertility specialist will likely be a urologist! 

The difference is simply that a fertility specialist at a clinic is there to assess your health in regards to fertility. They are there to help you conceive. That may mean suggesting surgeries, medicine, assisted fertility treatments or lifestyle changes. But if they find other urological conditions that have implications for your larger health rather than just your fertility, you’ll probably be referred to another urologist or clinic for treatment.

Simply put, your fertility specialist is a urologist trying to help you conceive. But if they find something like suspicious lumps on your testicles that could be cancerous, then they’ll send you to a different urologist. Either way – you’re in good hands!

When should you see a urologist?

Since urology covers a lot of ground for male anatomy, there are many symptoms which can lead to an appointment:

  • urinating more frequently than normal
  • blood in the urine
  • incontinence
  • changes to male genitals such as lumps
  • erectile dysfunction
  • painful urination
  • if you and your partner have been unable to get pregnant after 1 year of trying

With any changes like these it’s best to head to the GP to talk through your concerns and symptoms. Your GP can give you a number of tests, screenings and treatments for urinary, sexual and prostate problems. But they may then refer you to a urologist.

Doctors suggest that men start to have regular urology appointments at the age of 40. This puts you in much better control of your urinary, sexual and prostate health. It means you’re much more likely to catch out any dangerous diseases or conditions before they become worse. Even if you’ve had no problems, diagnosing a nasty disease or condition early on can make all the difference to your life and health.

What can I expect at a urology appointment?

A urology appointment for your fertility will likely be a chat with the doctor about your medical history and any current issues, a painless examination and a semen analysis.

A physical check for a man will generally involve feeling his abdomen, examining his genitals, and a digital exam to feel his prostate. Now these sorts of exams may seem embarrassing, but take comfort in the fact that pretty much every male will have these tests at some point. It’s just a short – albeit awkward – part of your day with a professional who knows what they’re doing. If your physical exams are all normal, you should be able to just head home and rest easy in the knowledge you’re healthy and don’t need to worry about a big section of your health for a while. 

Semen analyses from labs can take a week’s time, so you might be called in for another appointment to discuss your results. Then depending on your results you may need to discuss treatment plans. You can usually improve your semen quality with exercise and diet changes, but sometimes it’s not that easy. Your urologist can then talk you through alternative options like surgeries and fertility treatment, and any concerns you might have.

Hopefully that gives you some peace of mind for your future appointment. That being said, if you’re biting your nails waiting for an upcoming urology appointment, you can always call up the clinic or doctor and ask exactly what will happen during your visit.

Can my ExSeed Test results help me at a urology appointment? 

Yes! One part of a urology appointment for male fertility is a semen analysis. Already having ExSeed results may mean you won’t need another analysis. Or if you end up needing another, having ExSeed results can tell your doctor if anything has changed. This can help urologists determine factors which may be affecting your sperm.

Already having test results may also help you understand the process of urological tests and treatments better. The ExSeed test kit and app give you comprehensive information about your sperm analysis results, what each part means, and how they can be improved. 

Having a good understanding of male fertility can make it easier to go through appointments with new doctors. It can be difficult when the doctor asks “Do you have any questions?” if you don’t know enough about your body or the field of medicine. You may have questions you don’t know how to word or concerns you feel embarrassed to ask about. Getting to grips with your fertility before you head to the urologist may mean you’re more able to navigate your appointments much easier.

So…

Whether a urology appointment is something in your near future, or something you won’t need for years, it’s good to be prepared and aware. 

It can be easy to feel like you don’t have much control over your health or fertility. So it’s important to discuss any concerns or questions you have with your GP or other doctors, even if it’s mild. 

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Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.

Stress

Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.

Nutrition

Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Vegetables
Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.

Heat

Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.

BMI

There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  

Alcohol

A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.

Age

Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.