Male menopause is the more commonly-used term for andropause, or age-related changes in male hormone levels. According to the Mayo Clinic, the same group of symptoms is also known as testosterone deficiency, androgen deficiency, and late-onset hypogonadism. Male menopause is considered a slowing of testosterone production for men in their 50s or older and is often affiliated with hypogonadism, as both conditions deal with lowered testosterone levels and have similar symptoms.
Produced in the testicles, testosterone does more for a man than fuel his sex drive. It fuels mental and physical energy and changes during puberty, maintains muscle mass, regulates the fight or flight response, and regulates other key evolutionary features.
Male menopause differs from female menopause in that not all men will experience it and it doesn’t include a complete shutdown of the male reproductive organs, although sexual complications may arise as symptoms of lowered hormone levels. While the World Health Organization (WHO) doesn’t recognize male menopause as a condition, about five million American men don’t produce adequate levels of testosterone.
Symptoms of Male Menopause
Male menopause can cause physical, sexual, and psychological problems, which typically worsen as a man gets older. Symptoms include:
- insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- increased body fat
- reduced muscle mass
- gynecomastia (development of breasts)
- low energy
- feelings of physical weakness
- decreased bone density
- erectile dysfunction
- reduced libido
- decreased motivation
- lowered self-confidence
- feelings of depression or sadness
- difficulty concentrating
Rare side effects include swollen or tender breasts, decreased testicle size, loss of body hair, and hot flashes. Low levels of testosterone associated with male menopause have also been linked to osteoporosis, a condition where bones become weak and brittle. These atypical symptoms, caused by reduced levels of testosterone, typically affect men at the same age when women enter menopause.
Testosterone Over the Years
Testosterone levels are low before a male hits puberty, and increase as he sexually matures. Testosterone is the hormone that fuels the typical changes boys experience as they become men, such as: increased muscle mass, body hair growth, lowering of the voice, and sexual functioning.
The Mayo Clinic reports that testosterone levels begin declining at about one percent every year after the age of 30, leading to about half that of normal testosterone levels by age 70. However, disease and other detrimental health conditions could cause these levels to gradually decrease beginning as early as age 45.
Depending on your symptoms, a doctor may take a sample of your blood to test your testosterone levels. Abnormal testosterone levels could help explain male fertility problems, erectile dysfunction, and delayed development, among other conditions. Doctors also look at testosterone levels in women when attempting to figure out why a woman is developing male features or has irregular menstrual periods.
Treating Male Menopause
Unless male menopause is causing you severe hardship or disrupting your life, you’ll probably go through the lowered testosterone period without treatment and chalk it up to the aging process. The biggest hurdle in treating male menopause is talking to your doctor about your symptoms, as most men are often too intimidated or shy to discuss sexual-related topics.
Treating the depression aspect of male menopause can make the most significant impact on improving the condition and your quality of life. Treatment can include antidepressants, therapy, and lifestyle changes. The most common type of treatment for male menopause is making healthier lifestyle choices. These include:
- eating a healthy diet
- regular exercise
- getting adequate sleep
- reducing your stress
These health tips benefit all men, but those experiencing symptoms of male menopause could see a dramatic change in their overall health.
Hormone replacement therapy is another treatment option, but it’s very controversial. Like performance-enhancing steroids, synthetic testosterone can have damaging side effects, including the potential to worsen prostate cancer. If your doctor suggests hormone replacement therapy, weigh all of the positives and negatives before making your decision.