Everyone knows about menopause which occurs in females around the ages of 40 to 50. However, not many people know that a similar process, called andropause, occurs in men.
In menopause, women experience a sudden drop in ovarian estrogen and testosterone production which eventually leads to the permanent end of menstrual cycles and fertility.
While in andropause, there are also hormonal changes which can affect your everyday life. In this article, we will look at the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of andropause.
Causes of male Andropause
Even though there is some debate about andropause, there is no doubt that testosterone levels decrease with age. Produced by the male testicles, testosterone causes the expression of male sex characteristics. Testosterone also helps with:
- Bone density maintenance
- Development of muscle strength and mass
- Red blood cell production
- Sperm production
- Sex drive
- Body fat distribution
If testosterone is lacking, any or all of these areas can be affected and produce symptoms. By the time you reach age 30, your testosterone levels begin to decline. By age 70, your testosterone levels can be as low as 50% of their maximum. Like menopause, andropause has no specific cause, and it is a natural part of aging.
What are the symptoms of male andropause?
Unlike menopause in women, andropause symptoms appear gradually. The most common complaints are:
- Decreased libido: you might have erectile dysfunction and also a diminished sex drive. Some men even experience shrinkage in testicle size.
- Problems sleeping: this can be either excessive sleepiness (hyper-somnolence) or insomnia.
- Increased body fat
- Diminished muscle tone, bulk, and strength
- Less endurance, low energy levels
- Hair loss
- Depressed mood
- The trouble with concentration or memory
- In some rare cases, men can even suffer from hot flashes like women undergoing menopause. Also, some men experience enlargement and tenderness of their breasts or gynecomastia.
How is male andropause diagnosed?
Not all doctors recognize andropause as a medical disorder. It also has other names such as:
- Male menopause
- Testosterone deficiency
- Androgen deficiency of aging in men
- Late-onset hypogonadism Doctors who specialize in anti-aging or regenerative medicine are best at making this diagnosis.
Other disorders such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, and anemia should be ruled out before confirming the diagnosis of andropause. The diagnosis made by your doctor taking a thorough history and performing a physical exam. The evaluation might involve checking your blood testosterone levels as well, but this is not mandatory to make the diagnosis.
How is andropause treated?
The first line of treatment is diet and lifestyle modification. This includes:
- Exercise: you can start by taking a brisk walk of 15-30 minutes a day
- With time you should increase the intensity of exercise
- Consult a physician before starting any new exercise routine.
- Healthy Diet: Plenty of fruits, vegetables, and also whole grains. Less processed meats and more fish in the diet are especially helpful.
- Quit smoking if you smoke.
- Moderate alcohol consumption to no more than one glass of wine or beer a day.
- Maintain an active social life with sports, social groups, clubs, etc…
- Seek to counsel if you feel depressed or anxious There are also nutritional supplements that might be of help such as DHEA which is a steroid hormone. If symptoms are severe, your doctor might also consider testosterone hormone replacement therapy. All treatments should be done under the supervision of a physician experienced in treating andropause.
Andropause is a disorder that is much more common among men than most people realize. Many doctors do not recognize or treat it. Andropause can be diagnosed and treated to give symptomatic men a better quality of life.
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