Menopause is a phase that every woman has to go through at some point in their lives. The majority of women tend to reach menopause between 40 and 58 years.
The average age for women to reach menopause is 51. The term “menopause” refers to the end of menstrual cycles in the female body. After this phase, a woman’s body no longer releases eggs. Hormone production by the ovaries is halted, and pregnancy is no longer possible.
While menopause is generally associated with women only, similar effects can happen in the male body. In recent times, the term “male menopause” has become a popular subject. Men can also experience a decline in hormones as they age, as well as sexual problems.
We look at what male menopause is, how hormones change with age, and the symptoms men should note. We also consider current treatment options available for men who experience these symptoms.
The post also considers the current treatment options available for men with low testosterone levels. Lifestyle changes that may assist in boosting testosterone levels and preventing male menopause will be discussed as well.
What Is Male Menopause?
The first thing that needs to be noted here is that what we call “male menopause” is not the same as female menopause.
In women, the female body completely stops producing certain hormones at the time she reaches menopause. The ovaries no longer release eggs. Several bodily changes are common at this time. The woman may find it hard to sleep, experience mood swings, and have a consistent flare-up of hot flashes.
Among men, hormone production will usually not be completely halted. Symptoms like hot flashes, however, have been noted among the aging male population.
In men, testosterone is known as the primary sex hormone. This hormone plays a critical role in sexual and reproductive health. Testosterone also contributes to the growth of lean muscle mass and is involved in the process of fat distribution.
Bone health, mental clarity, and even cardiovascular well-being all depend on healthy levels of testosterone in the body.
Over time, testosterone tends to decrease in the male body gradually. As this happens, symptoms will usually not be experienced. This is because the decline happens very slowly. Some men, however, have a rapid decline in the production of this hormone.
This can lead to what many now refer to as “male menopause.” Another term used to describe this scenario is andropause.
Several differences can be observed between menopause in women and andropause in men. In particular, the testosterone reduction in men tends to happen much more gradually compared to a hormone decline among women. Thus, symptoms may take longer to progress in the male patient.
Another important difference is the fact that it is sometimes possible to improve hormone production in men with andropause. Among women, hormone production is completely stopped during menopause. The only treatment option, if needed, would be to administer artificial hormones.
Researchers have found that an estimated 30% of men over 50 years of age experiences signs of andropause. Low testosterone has a higher risk in older men. Without adequate treatment, there are serious complications that can develop. For example, a man is at a greater risk of osteoporosis if their testosterone levels are too low.
What Are The Symptoms?
Andropause, or male menopause, generally consists of a decline in testosterone.
This hormone has many roles to play in the male body. With this in mind, several systems may be adversely affected if men’s hormone levels decline too much.
The presence of low testosterone in men can cause numerous symptoms to develop. The severity of these symptoms will generally depend on how rapid testosterone levels are declining.
Symptoms tend to become worse over time. The risk of severe complications and symptoms is greater among men who do not receive appropriate treatment.
Some common male menopause symptoms in men include:
- There may be a reduction in the man’s self-confidence.
- The man may find that their breasts are larger than it should be.
- Body hair depends on testosterone. With andropause, the man may find that his body hair is starting to decline too.
- There may be an increase in nervousness when testosterone declines.
- Some men find that they lack motivation when they have declining testosterone levels in their bodies.
- An increased body fat may also be a sign of andropause among male patients.
- Insomnia has also been noted in men with low testosterone. This can cause sleep deprivation. When the man does not sleep enough, there may be a further decline in testosterone production.
- Depression is another sign that a man may be experiencing andropause.
- Testosterone is important for mental health. Apart from depression, some men experience memory loss when levels of this hormone decline.
- Fatigue and weakness may be experienced. The man may find that they constantly feel tired.
- The hormone helps to regulate bone density as well. With low testosterone, bone mineral density can decline. In turn, the man has a greater risk of osteoporosis, as well as bone fractures.
- Muscle mass may decline. There is also a risk of experiencing a decline in physical strength. This is generally caused by the reduced muscle tissue in the man’s body.
In addition to these symptoms, men should be on the lookout for a decline in their performance during sex as well. Sexual dysfunction is another common symptom associated with low testosterone.
Testosterone does not play a direct role in an erection. Still, links have been made between testosterone deficiency and erectile dysfunction. This is primarily due to the effect that testosterone has on libido. Men with andropause are likely to experience low libido.
Since libido is essentially the starting point for an erection, this effect can cause sexual dysfunction. The man will not be in the mood for sex. This can cause their erection to be weak. In severe cases, no erection may be experienced at all.
The depressive symptoms that develop as part of andropause can further lead to sexual dysfunction. Several studies have shown that men with depression are far more likely to experience erectile dysfunction symptoms. This is quite a complex relationship, however. The ED symptoms can then worsen depression.
What Causes Male Menopause?
Testosterone levels naturally decline as a man age. The decline that occurs is slow. With such a gradual decline in the amount of testosterone produced, symptoms will usually not be experienced.
Sometimes, testosterone declines faster. In such a case, it is important to consider what may be the cause behind male menopause.
Researchers have linked several causes to a more rapid decline of testosterone. All potential causes need to be considered in men with andropause. A targeted treatment approach can then be implemented. In some cases, targeting the cause behind andropause may yield a successful recovery.
Some of the reasons why testosterone levels may drop too quickly include:
- Men who undergo chemotherapy have a risk of experiencing a decline in testosterone levels. This can, in some cases, lead to andropause.
- Several inflammatory diseases have been linked to testosterone reduction in the male body. Sarcoidosis is one example of such a condition. This particular condition leads to chronic inflammation in several organs.
- Liver and kidney conditions may affect the production of testosterone. This includes cirrhosis of liver tissue. Men with chronic renal failure also have a higher risk of andropause.
- When there is a dysfunction in the pituitary gland, hormones may not communicate effectively with the testes. A tumor that affects the pituitary gland may cause a similar effect. Testosterone is produced in the testes. Thus, insufficient testosterone may be produced when there is a lack of hormones sent to the testes from the pituitary gland.
- Some metabolic disorders have also been shown to cause a decline in testosterone levels. One example of a metabolic disorder linked to andropause is hemochromatosis.
- Obesity, often also classified as a metabolic disorder, can also impact hormone production in the body. This includes the production and secretion of testosterone.
Some medications can interfere with the body’s ability to produce enough testosterone.
Opioids have been linked to a risk of testosterone deficiency. Additionally, a steroid medication, including prednisone, can also affect this sex hormone production in men.
Men who abuse alcohol are also at a greater risk for andropause.
Apart from these causes, it is essential to note that lower testosterone levels are a relatively common concern among male patients diagnosed with HIV and AIDS.
How Do Hormone Levels Change With Age?
Testosterone reaches its peak during the 20s. The testosterone level that is developed by the body does not remain the same during a man’s entire lifespan. Several changes happen in the body during the age. Changes in testosterone production tend to be among these changes.
Numerous studies have been conducted to determine when testosterone levels start to drop. Researchers find that it can vary from one man to the next. In many men, testosterone production starts to decline when the man reaches 30 years of age.
According to a paper by Harvard Medical School, however, this drop may only occur at the age of 40 for some men.
Once a man reaches the age where their testosterone will start to decline, the process happens very slowly. Most men only experience a 1% drop in testosterone levels every year.
Sometimes the drop in testosterone tends to happen faster. A more significant decline in testosterone tends to be more prevalent among older men. Some cases of young men with testosterone deficiency have been noted too, however.
Diagnosing Male Menopause
When men experience symptoms associated with andropause, a diagnosis needs to be made first. Other conditions can cause similar symptoms. Thus, the patient should not automatically accept that they have low testosterone. Instead, the person should consult with a doctor.
Some tests can be done to diagnose male hypogonadism, or andropause, as it is also referred to.
A blood test will usually be done if the doctor suspects the patient may have a testosterone deficiency. This blood test looks at the total testosterone that is circulating in the patient’s blood. The doctor will also likely ask for measurements on free testosterone. This helps the doctor see how much testosterone can actually be used by the body.
The doctor will advise the patient to come to the office early in the morning. Testing testosterone levels at an early time in the day yields more accurate results. This is when testosterone levels are the highest.
Treating Male Menopause
If a man is diagnosed with hypogonadism, then appropriate treatment will be suggested. A doctor will first consider why the man may experience the condition.
Additional tests may be ordered to help identify the cause behind the testosterone deficiency. When a cause is noted, the doctor will often aim to address these underlying factors. It could be associated with a medical condition, for example. Treating the underlying disorder or illness helps to prevent complications in the future. It may also sometimes yield improvements in testosterone levels.
There are also specific testosterone treatment available to raise testosterone levels. This is often done by providing the patient with testosterone replacement therapy. The treatment is also called hormone therapy or hormone replacement therapy.
This particular treatment involves the administration of synthetic testosterone into the man’s body. Different forms of testosterone can be used as part of treatment. An injection is often a preferred option. A doctor may also advise a man on the use of a patch.
Injections are administered directly into muscle tissue. This is done once every two weeks. Patches provide a long-acting formula that works throughout the day. A new patch is applied once a day. Gels are also available, as well as pellets that are placed underneath the skin.
Apart from a pharmacological treatment approach, there are some lifestyle changes that men should also consider. A number of poor habits can lead to a higher risk of hypogonadism in men. Changing these habits can provide a preventative effect. In cases where testosterone is already low, the lifestyle changes may help to reduce further complications.
Exercise and diet are two of the primary concerns. Obesity causes a higher risk of testosterone deficiency. By exercising regularly, the man can manage their weight more effectively. Studies have shown that resistance training, in particular, provides an increase in testosterone levels.
A healthy diet further contributes to reduced body fat. Eating a diet that is rich in healthy foods and avoiding junk food can help to improve hormonal change in the body too. This is done by limited inflammation, improving blood circulation, and providing the body with adequate nutrients.
Menopause might not be a problem only faced by women. According to some studies, a similar event can happen among men. This is primarily caused by a decline in testosterone circulating through the male body.
The result may be a range of symptoms, ranging from muscle loss to fatigue, and even include sexual dysfunction. Men should understand the risks and recognize the symptoms early on. Effective treatments can be provided but tend to be more successful at earlier stages.