A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

SmartHealthToday: ‘Male menopause’ — accurately, andropause — related to drop in testosterone levels

By Dave Malaska
SmartHealthToday

The term “menopause,” we know, refers to a feminine process, the hormonal and physical changes women go through when they’ve experienced their final menstrual cycle. It’s a natural occurrence, coming around age 50 for most, that is accompanied by a drop in estrogen levels.

Now, the term “male menopause” is becoming more common, but men don’t have a menstrual cycle, don’t produce eggs and typically have less estrogen than women already. So, how can a man go through menopause?

male-menopause

The simple answer is they don’t, so “male menopause” is a misnomer. Men do, however, go through their own hormonal change with age that mirrors the effects of the female version.

The male version is more accurately known as andropause — from the Greek “androgen” meaning “man-maker” — and is accompanied by a drop in testosterone levels, which is key in men’s sex drives, retention in muscle mass, bone density, red blood cell production and fertility. The drop in testosterone levels, about 1 percent a year after the age of 30, are typically not as noticeable as female menopause and is usually diagnosed via blood test after symptoms present.

Those symptoms may include:

Changes in sexual function, including reduced desire, fewer spontaneous erections and erectile dysfunction;

Physical changes like increased body fat and loss of muscle not attributable to inactivity, gynecomastia (the dreaded “man boobs”) or an increase in bone brittleness evidenced by more injuries unattributable to other factors, like greater activity, or greater instances of fatigue;

Changes in sleep patterns, since low testosterone can manifest through insomnia; or

Emotional changes or symptoms of depression.

Symptoms tend not to be definitive, though. The same changes can be traced back to side effects to medication, thyroid problems or outside factors like alcohol use.

Treatment

Once diagnosed, “male menopause” is actually pretty easy to treat. Your doctor, if testosterone loss is the problem, can start you on hormonal replacement therapy through periodic injections, dermal patches or a gel that you can apply at home. Doctors warn not to meddle with several over-the-counter or internet products that claim to help replace testosterone, however. Since taking testosterone has been linked to prostate and heart problems, use of hormone-boosting products should only be used under close supervision of your doctor.

In some cases, testosterone replacement may not even be needed. Your doctor may decide lesser steps — losing weight, exercise and changing to a more healthy diet — may curb the symptoms to more reasonable levels.

The bottom line: Talk with your doctor if you’re worried about andropause. It can make getting older a lot more manageable.

SmartHealthToday is a service of St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment