Male menopause is also called “andropause”; it is a part of the aging process in men and it is not a myth. Men experience andropause in more subtle ways when compared to women; however, there are changes in the sex hormones in men that can affect their daily functioning.
The “Myth” Of Male Menopause
Because men do not experience a number of symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats seen in women, some people believe it does not exist. What is known, however, is that the levels of testosterone in men gradually reduce with age, leading to symptoms that are much less obvious than the cessation of menses as is seen in women. This reduction in testosterone results in andropause and is due to deficiency in the normal androgen levels seen in younger men.
The testosterone levels are different when it comes to individual men. Some men naturally have high levels of androgen, while others suffer from lower than normal levels of testosterone.
Regardless of the level of testosterone seen in an individual man, it can be expected that the level will decrease at a rate of about one percent per year beginning at the age of 30. Men who have low levels when young will experience andropause at an earlier age than men who have higher levels of testosterone when young.
Detecting Low Testosterone Levels
Men who suspect that they might have low testosterone can have a testosterone level checked. Testosterone levels can be low in the bloodstream or there can be a lesser bioavailability of testosterone. Some men have low testosterone levels and yet have no symptoms of andropause. In such cases, no treatment is necessary. In those who have symptoms, testosterone can be replaced.
Typical Symptoms Of Low Testosterone
If a man has low testosterone and has symptoms of andropause, he might expect these symptoms:
• Alterations in sleep. Both insomnia and excessive sleepiness can be a result of having too little testosterone in the system.
• Sexual dysfunction. Men with low testosterone levels often exhibit a decrease in libido, fewer spontaneous erections during sleep, and erectile dysfunction. Infertility can become a problem because testosterone is necessary for sperm production. Some men will experience a reduction in the size of their testicles.
• Physical Effects. A loss of testosterone can cause an increase in the percentage of body fat and a reduction in the strength and size of the muscles. Bones become less dense so that men with prolonged low testosterone levels are at a greater risk of osteoporosis and fractures of the hip, spine, and wrist. Men can also experience gynecomastia, which is the phenomenon in men where the breasts become tender or swollen.
• Emotional effects. Men with low testosterone levels often feel less motivated than men with normal testosterone levels. The level of confidence decreases as well. Depression, sadness, memory difficulties, and concentration problems are also a part of low testosterone syndrome.
Not every man with these symptoms has them because of low testosterone. Other causes of the above symptoms include excessive drinking, depression, hypothyroidism, and side effects of medication. In addition, there are conditions that can cause low testosterone syndrome. Sleep apnea is one of those conditions. When sleep apnea is identified and fixed with CPAP or surgery, the testosterone levels will rise and the symptoms will dissipate.
Ways To Feel Better
If you are a man experiencing any of the above symptoms associated with low testosterone levels, you need to see your physician for evaluation. There is no known way of improving the testosterone level naturally but there are things you can do:
• Work with your physician. Find out if your symptoms are due to low testosterone syndrome or to some other disorder. If low testosterone levels are detected and you have no sleep apnea, you can receive testosterone supplements in the form of gels, patches, and lozenges. Testosterone does not survive the acidic environment of the stomach so it must be given by other means.
• Choose a healthy lifestyle. As you age, it pays to eat a healthy diet and exercise on a regular basis. Good food and exercise can maximize your physical strength and improve your energy. Exercising with weights can help you maintain a reasonable muscle mass. Exercise can also improve one’s mood and will aid in relieving insomnia.
• Seek mental health help. If low testosterone has led you to depression, you need to seek the advice and treatment of a mental health professional. Men don’t always experience depression in the same way as women and will feel more irritable or aggressive. Rather than using alcohol to control these symptoms, see what a mental health professional has to offer.
• Stay away from herbal remedies. Several herbal remedies claim to raise male testosterone levels. One of these is called DHEA. Research on DHEA has already shown that the long-term use of this supplement does not help the symptoms of andropause and may even increase a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer.
It is controversial whether to treat men in andropause with testosterone replacement therapy. In some men, taking testosterone does a great deal to reduce the symptoms of low testosterone. In others, there is no effect on symptoms and testosterone replacement has been linked to the development of prostate cancer and heart attacks. Talk to your doctor about whether or not testosterone replacement is right for you.