Have you noticed your father, brother, or partner acting strangely lately? Does he forget things, seem lethargic, or wake up sweating? If so, he may be suffering from male menopause. While this likely sounds unbelievable to most women, more and more people are suggesting that male menopause really does exist. Like female menopause, menopause in men seems to involve a drop in hormone levels around middle age. Often referred to with contempt as the "mid-life crisis," men may really be suffering from a documented illness. So grab the man in your life and make him aware of what he may be facing when he reaches middle age.
What is Male Menopause?
Male menopause, also called andropause, refers to a gradual decline in a man's testosterone levels. Not all men will go through andropause and it is unknown why those that will, do. Testosterone is the male sex hormone that is responsible for creating and releasing sperm, initiating sex drive and providing muscular strength.
Hormone levels tend to peak around the ages of 15 to 18 in most males. Sometime during his mid to late 20s, a man's hormone levels will begin to drop slowly. Usually, these hormone levels will remain at a healthy level, but some men will see their testosterone levels drop significantly by the time they are 40. By age 50, half of all men will experience a significant reduction in testosterone levels, causing a variety of uncomfortable ailments.
Causes of Male Menopause
Male menopause can occur naturally in some men. More often than not, though, andropause is triggered by illness, depression, dementia, and obesity. Certain diseases that attack the heart and lungs also seem to affect the production of testosterone. Men who have had autoimmune diseases or cancer seem to be at an increased risk for low testosterone levels.
Andropause vs. Menopause
Menopause in men is not entirely similar to female menopause. Female menopause involves the complete decline of sex hormones. During menopause, your estrogen levels will decrease and then disappear, causing acute symptoms and the complete loss of fertility. Men will never lose their fertility completely during andropause. Testosterone will continue to be produced, as will sperm, permitting a man to have children well into his 80s. For this reason, there is much debate over whether this testosterone drop should be referred to as the male "menopause."
What are the Symptoms of Male Menopause?
Male menopause symptoms are very similar to those experienced by women during menopause, only much less intense. Common menopause symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, muscle and joint aches. Men also suffer from emotional symptoms like mood swings, irritability, depression, and listlessness.
Sex and menopause in men is also an issue of concern. The most common symptom experienced by men with low testosterone is a diminished sex drive. 80% of men with documented andropause complain of low libido and an inability to maintain a strong erection. Like women going through menopause, men can begin to feel like they no longer enjoy sex. If this is the case, a visit to the doctor can really help men to feel more in control of their physical and sexual wellbeing.
Men often do not seek treatment for andropause. A lot of men feel uncomfortable speaking about their symptoms and, in the past, doctors haven't taken men's menopause seriously. Signs of menopause in men can also be difficult to diagnose. Thanks to new studies, though, doctors have become more aware of this problem and are beginning to realize the importance of treatment.
The primary treatment for andropause is Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT). Like estrogen replacement in women, testosterone replacement aims to bring hormonal levels back up to a healthy level. Once testosterone levels are increased, most men begin to experience fewer symptoms. Unfortunately, testosterone replacement doesn't always work well to combat erectile dysfunction. Because this is such a severe symptom for most men, other treatments for erectile dysfunction should be investigated.
It is important for men to understand what is happening to their bodies as they age. Andropause does not affect all men and its symptoms have varying degrees of severity. However, if you know someone who is affected by andropause, encourage him to talk about his symptoms with a doctor.
Chat with others about male menopause in our menopause forum.