Many people assume menopause is just a woman’s condition. However, that is not the case as men also suffer from menopause and the effects of changing hormones. Many men experience some of the same symptoms that women experience in perimenopause (meaning around menopause) and menopause, including low sex drive, hot flashes, depression, irritability, mood swings, increased body fat, and decreased energy.
Male menopause, also known as andropause, is a result of a gradual decrease in testosterone. Testosterone is an androgen. Male menopause is not the same as the type of menopause that women go through. For this reason, doctors usually refer to “male menopause” as low testosterone or testosterone deficiency or androgen decline in the aging male.
Male menopause, or andropause, differs from female menopause, which occurs when the production of female hormones drops suddenly. Andropause is a gradual decline in hormone levels. The ovaries run out of the substance it needs to make testosterone. This does not happen with the testicles.
Testosterone levels in men gradually decline throughout the course of adulthood. This happens about 1 percent a year after the age of 30 on average. The loss of testosterone is rarely noticeable in men younger than 60. And by the time men reach their 80s, about half have low testosterone.
The connection between symptoms of low testosterone and actual low testosterone levels is controversial. This is because symptoms of low testosterone are present with other health conditions. Low testosterone can also occur with conditions such as diabetes. If low testosterone symptoms are occurring as a result of an underlying health condition, there may be changes in testicular function that appear early on such as between the ages of 45 and 50, or even after 70.
Symptoms of male menopause or low testosterone include low sex drive, difficulties getting erections or erections that are not as strong as usual, lack of energy, depression, irritability and mood swings, loss of strength or muscle mass, increased body fat, and hot flashes.
There are a number of ways to diagnose male menopause or low testosterone, including:
A blood test to measure testosterone levels
Assessment of the following symptoms:
Change in sexual function (Less and weaker erections or erectile dysfunction. It is normal for erections to occur less frequently in older men. However, erectile dysfunction is usually a result of an underlying medical or psychological condition, not aging. About 90 percent of erectile dysfunction cases are believed to be caused by taking high blood pressure medications. Other changes in sexual function include low libido, infertility, or smaller testicles.)
Changes in sleep patterns (Insomnia or increased sleepiness)
Physical changes (Increased body fat, reduced muscle bulk and strength, decreased bone density, swollen or tender breasts, loss of
Emotional changes (Decrease in motivation or self-confidence, feeling sad or depressed, trouble concentrating or remembering things. Signs and symptoms can be caused by underlying factors other than low testosterone, including medication side effects, thyroid problems, depression and excessive alcohol use.)
Dr. David Samadi is the chairman of urology and chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel and the chief medical correspondent for AM970 in New York City.