Most likely you have heard about menopause which occurs in women, but not everyone knows that men undergo a similar process called andropause. In women, levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease fairly quickly, and this leads to the end of ovulation. In men, the natural decrease in testosterone production is believed to be much more gradual. However, just like in women, men can experience symptoms that can interfere with their lifestyle.
Some doctors refer to andropause also as:
- Male menopause
- Testosterone deficiency
- Androgen deficiency of the aging male
- Late-onset hypogonadism
What Causes Andropause?
Testosterone is a hormone that is produced in your testicles and is responsible for the expression of male sex characteristics. It also helps to maintain bone density, muscle strength and mass, red blood cell production, sperm production, sex drive and body fat distribution.
In general, testosterone levels vary greatly in men. Starting at the age of 30, an average man’s testosterone level begins to decline naturally at a rate of about 1% per year. This means that by the time you reach 70, your testosterone levels can be as low as 50% of their maximum level. There is no known cause for andropause, and it is believed to be a natural process of aging.
What are the Symptoms of Andropause?
Andropause symptoms can vary greatly in men, but low testosterone levels can cause:
- Decrease in sexual function: You can have problems with getting or maintaining an erection, and you can experience decreased sexual desire. In some cases, infertility can result and testicular size can decrease as well.
- Sleep disturbances: This can be either trouble sleeping (insomnia) or increased sleepiness (hypersomnolence).
- Physical symptoms: You might experience increased body fat, decreased muscle bulk and strength, less endurance, less energy and hair loss. You can also have swollen or even tender breast tissue, also known as gynecomastia. In some rare cases, men can have hot flashes similar to women undergoing menopause.
- Emotional symptoms: You might find your motivation level decreased or experience a lack of self-confidence. Some men experience a depressed mood or trouble with memory or concentration.
How is Andropause Diagnosed and Treated?
First of all, the diagnosis of andropause must be made by a healthcare professional, preferably one that specializes in anti-aging or regenerative medicine. Your physician will take a careful history and conduct a physical exam. In diagnosing andropause testosterone levels might be ordered along with other blood tests. For example, your doctor might order thyroid hormone testing to make sure your symptoms are not caused by an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism).
Once the diagnosis has been made then your doctor will likely recommend treatment. The first line of treatment is lifestyle modification. This would include:
- Regular exercise: Brisk walking of up to 30 minutes a day can make a big difference
- Healthy diet: Plenty of fruits, vegetables and natural fibers. Less animal protein and fatty foods. Nutritional supplements might be helpful too.
- Minimize alcohol intake and quit smoking if you smoke
- Maintain healthy social activities
If your symptoms are persistent and serious, your doctor might consider testosterone replacement therapy. This treatment is specialized and must be done under the supervision of a physician with experience in treating andropause.
Andropause in men is similar to menopause in women. Physical and emotional changes take place due to a decrease in the levels of sex hormones associated with age. These changes can lead to symptoms that can be treatable, in some cases, with testosterone replacement therapy.