Andropause - Male Menopause
Male menopause – a real phenomenon or a myth? Read on to find out… Male menopause or andropause can cause a range of symptoms that can affect men in middle age. It may be responsible for periods of emotional upset and uncharacteristic behaviour.
What is the male menopause?
Although it is considered to be a taboo subject, there is evidence to suggest that some men suffer from the menopause. The male menopause is sometimes referred to as andropause or – to those of you with a sense of humour – ‘man-opause’. The male menopause is caused by changing hormone levels, in particular falling levels of testosterone. Other terms used to describe it by the medical community include testosterone deficiency, androgen deficiency and late-onset hypogonadism.
As with the female version, the male menopause is brought on by a rebalancing of hormone levels in a man’s body. More specifically, there is a decrease in androgen levels, the hormone group to which testosterone belongs.
Male menopause and hormone levels
Some men experience a number of the same symptoms that women go through during perimenopause and menopause. This makes sense, considering that men and women produce similar sex hormones, but of course in different proportions. During midlife, hormones need to rebalance and the balancing act can result in over or under production of the key sex hormones oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
Hormonal changes for men tend to be more gradual, and as a result, the male menopause is not as clearly defined as the female menopause. Women experience a sudden decline in oestrogen and ovulation ends, leading to a cessation of fertility in midlife. Therefore there is often a more defined, obvious and dramatic hormonal impact.
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Male menopause – a controversial subject
The medical community is currently debating the reality of the male menopause. Many believe the term male menopause to be a misnomer, as some men continue to father children late into their lives. They argue that gradual testosterone decline is a natural part of aging.
In their book, ‘You’ve Hit Menopause – Now What?’ Gillson and Marsden quote the International Society for the Study of the Aging Male which defines the andropause as: ‘A clinical and biochemical syndrome associated with advancing age and characterized by a deficiency in serum androgen levels… It may result in significant alterations to the quality of life and adversely affect the function of multiple organ systems.’
Symptoms of the male menopause
As men age, their production of testosterone naturally declines. As testosterone production slows down, some men report experiencing symptoms such as:
- Weight Gain
- Low libido or impotence
- Hot flushes
- Loss of memory and lack of concentration
Some advocates of the male menopause argue that men experience a hormonal impact, which results in consequences that are physical, psychological, social, sexual and spiritual.
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Male menopause treatment
Those doctors who consider that andropause exists as a condition to be diagnosed and treated may treat the condition with testosterone replacement therapy. This treatment is safe and effective for many men. However, studies have shown that it may increase the incidence of prostate cancer.
For further information on lifestyle changes that can help with male menopause have a look at the sections on My Second Spring that relate to therapies and treatments, exercise diet and nutrition.