The branch of medicine concerned with men’s health, particularly male infertility and sexual dysfunction. Andrology is literally the study of man (Greek andros, man). It is the male counterpart of gynecology.
Doctors of urology, or urologists, are trained to treat diseases and disorders of the urinary tract and adrenal gland in both men and women. In women, urologists treat conditions affecting the kidneys, ureter and utethra, and bladder. In men, they also diagnose and treat problems relating to the prostate and male reproductive system. It’s one of a handful of disciplines that combine surgical and non-surgical treatments, rather than having separate medical and surgical specialties such as cardiology and cardiac surgery. Urologists can specialize further into pediatric urology, an official subspecialty, or into the unofficial subspecialty of andrology.
Andrologists are urologists who focus entirely on the treatment of conditions affecting male fertility and sexuality, rather than practicing a broader form of urology. This specialty includes the treatment of physical conditions affecting the genitalia, such as undescended testes, as well as injuries and diseases that can affect fertility or sexual function. Health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and kidney failure can all decrease sexual function, so andrologists collaborate with caregivers in those fields. They also harvest sperm for in-vitro fertilization, when reproductive or sexual ability is impaired, or perform vasectomies when reproductive capacity is no longer desired.
Similarities and Differences
The differences between urologists and andrologists result from the individual doctor’s choices, rather than an intrinsic difference in the specialties. Every andrologist is a urologist, but one who’s narrowed his practice to a specific subset of patients. Urologists treat patients of both genders, and for urinary problems as well as male reproductive issues. Andrologists are the male equivalent of gynecologists, focusing entirely on male reproductive issues. An andrologist can choose to specialize even further, treating only reproductive problems or only impotence and erectile dysfunction.
Urologists and andrologists begin their careers like other doctors: completing a four-year undergraduate degree and four years of training in medical school. During those eight years of college, students who have already settled on a career in urology or andrology can take pertinent electives in biology or human sexuality as opportunity permits. After graduation, the new doctors must complete a five-year urological residency program. This provides opportunities to master the clinical and surgical skills needed in the field, under the supervision of experienced urologists. After completing this residency, doctors can become board-certified by passing the Board of Urology’s two-part certification exams. The Association of American Medical Colleges reports a median salary of $417,000 a year for urologists, a figure that includes andrologists.