Everybody knows menopause as a phenomenon women are bound to experience at some point in their lives. But far fewer people are aware of what is termed as andropause, which is thought to be the male version of menopause.
It turned out that something similar to menopause in women also occurs in men as they get older. This is andropause, a condition which becomes more common around middle age.
What does it entail and why do men experience it? What are the signs and symptoms and how do you treat it? Continue reading to learn more.
What is Andropause?
Changes in hormone levels in men that are noticed as part of the aging process are associated with andropause. When we talk about changes, we specifically mean a decline in the levels of the male hormone (testosterone) in the body.
Some people, however, may also suffer from the drop in the amounts of other crucial hormones, like dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a naturally occurring steroid hormone.
The condition is also known by a variety of other names. They include male menopause, “man-o-pause,” late-onset hypogonadism and androgen deficiency of the aging male (ADAM).
Many doctors denied the reality of andropause – and some still do. But more and more medical professionals appear to agree that the condition is indeed real. Doctors are seeing older men reporting symptoms similar to those seen in perimenopausal and menopausal women.
The main reason some individuals in the medical community dispute this condition is that it lacks a well-defined period as observed in female menopause.
The decline in hormone levels in men tends to be gradual, but that in women can be abrupt. Therefore, the symptoms don’t seem to come at once but appear over time.
Testosterone levels in men start to decline after the age of 30, according to Mayo Clinic. They drop by about 1 percent each year, on average. But the effects of this fall may not be visible until in the 40s or even later.
Apart from normal aging, other factors that can contribute to low testosterone levels include:
- High blood sugar
- Chronic inflammation
- Excess body fat
- Low physical activity
- Exposure to heavy metals, pesticides, and other pollutants
Signs and Symptoms
One of the most common signs of andropause is constant tiredness. Low testosterone means lower energy. You may often find yourself quickly exhausted after a little exertion.
Changes in sexual function
It is well known that older men usually have a lesser interest in sexual activity. This is an effect of the decline in testosterone levels.
A common complaint resulting from low libido is erection dysfunction (ED). While it is normal for a man to have fewer erections as they get older, andropause seems to worsen the problem. It often leads to fewer spontaneous erections, shrunken testes and possibly infertility.
You may be surprised to learn that andropause can also mess with your head. It is possibly a reason many older men are believed to suffer from undiagnosed depression.
The declining levels of testosterone may cause you to feel sad or depressed. You could become touchy and withdrawn as a result. Depression can also drive you into habits that could cause you harm.
This condition may cause disruption in your sleeping patterns. Getting good and sufficient sleep during the night becomes a real challenge. It is feared that difficulty sleeping may also be a sign that you are suffering from depression due to low testosterone levels.
Insomnia isn’t the only form of sleep disturbance you may experience as a result of andropause. Increased sleepiness, especially during the day, is also possible. This could be connected to poor sleep at night.
There are many other signs and symptoms that men experience due to andropause, including:
- Loss of muscle mass
- Decline in bone density
- Enlarged or tender breasts
- Greater body fat
- Lower self-confidence
- Motivation problem
- Poor concentration
- Memory issue
However, you need to be aware of the fact that some of these symptoms could be linked with other disorders.
While it is a natural phenomenon for testosterone levels to fall in older men, not everyone will develop andropause. The real problem is when you have observed some of the andropause symptoms.
Your doctor will usually start with a physical exam and some questions in diagnosing the condition. A blood test is a key part of the diagnosis, where testosterone levels are measured, relative to your age.
A variety of other tests may be ordered to be fully sure that other conditions are not to blame for the observed symptoms.
How is Andropause Treated?
Since the drop of male hormone is the main issue in andropause, doctors typically advise testosterone replacement therapy to combat the symptoms. The treatment normally involves any of the following:
Pills – There are products you can take orally to boost the levels of testosterone in your body. Pills are available to be taken with food 2-3 times daily. But they are only advisable for short-term use.
Gels – Along with pills, there are also topical solutions that can be used to combat androgen symptoms. Testosterone gels are applied on the upper arm or shoulder, usually in the morning. You are to leave them on for several hours for proper absorption. Extra caution is essential when using these products, though.
Injections – These are the most effective means of testosterone replacement. Another good thing about them is that you take them less often – one injection may be all you need in three months. But the potency of testosterone injections also makes them, perhaps, more likely to cause side effects.
There are reports of men getting relief from andropause symptoms following testosterone replacement therapy. For instance, it improves energy levels, enhances sexual drive and desire, and relieves depression.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) Risks
While it is indisputable that some men get better with testosterone treatment, there is controversy about the potential for undesirable side effects. It is also said that some men may not benefit much, if at all, from the therapy.
Side effects are actually not uncommon with hormonal treatments. They are not just limited to testosterone replacement therapy.
Issues that may accompany the use of pharmaceutical testosterone products for andropause include:
- Sleep problem
The long-term risks of the therapy aren’t completely known. But it is believed that it can promote cancerous growth and worsen prostate cancer. The treatment is, therefore, not advisable for men with an already enlarged prostate.
TRT can also increase your risk of suffering from heart disease and stroke. This is in connection with how it can promote the formation of clots in your veins.
Obviously, you have a lot to discuss with your doctor before using pharma testosterone products to deal with andropause symptoms.
Natural Remedies for Andropause
If you are a person who is always careful and suspicious with pharma products, you may wonder if there are natural solutions for combating this condition. Thankfully, there are. The problem with herbal supplements, though, is that many in the medical community doubt their efficacy.
But there are also reports of people noticing an increase in their testosterone levels using herbs. The following are a few of the ones that are believed to help:
Tribulus Terrestris – A famous aphrodisiac in several countries, this herb is said to contain a compound known as protodioscin. This is believed to be a precursor to testosterone. Tribulus also helps to promote firm erections.
Tongkat Ali – Clinical evidence has shown that this herb may help men in more ways than boosting testosterone levels. It increases sexual desire and improves the quality of semen. You could also find it beneficial for muscle growth.
Fenugreek – Research suggests that this herb may help against symptoms of andropause in older men. It boosts the amount of testosterone in the body and enhances sexual function.
Suma root – Many benefits have been associated with the root of the Suma plant, which is also known as the Brazilian ginseng. It contains ecdysterone, which is responsible for boosting testosterone levels. The herb is also a libido booster.
Other natural remedies that may possibly help fight andropause symptoms are zinc and Avena sativa.
However, doctors typically advise caution when using herbal supplements. Some argue that these products are not effective and may even not be safe to use.
If you must use herbal supplements, make sure you do your research. Also, make sure to buy these products from a reputable company.
Some men do not need to worry much about the decline in their testosterone levels. You cannot just guess you have andropause by the presence of symptoms mentioned above as they are often linked to other health problems. Besides, some men with this condition don’t even show any symptoms. The only way you can be sure you have andropause is by speaking with your doctor and having a blood test done.
Testosterone replacement therapy can help to improve symptoms of male menopause. Just make sure you consult your doctor first. Any wrong move with the treatment can have serious implications on your health.
Regular exercise and a healthy diet will also be helpful. These will give your physical and mental health the much-needed boost. You may also consider using any of the proven herbs, but do not rely on them entirely.
- Male Menopause Symptoms, Treatments, Causes, and More
- What Are the Signs of Male Menopause?
- Male menopause: Myth or reality? – Mayo Clinic