The terms "male menopause" and "andropause" are popping up all over the place now, with more and more men facing concerns regarding a mid-life hormonal decline. Once referred to somewhat disdainfully as "mid-life crisis", male menopause puts a more accurate label on a very genuine - and sometimes distressing - condition. There are very real reasons for this mid-life decline, and many men are somewhat relieved that it is no longer being written off as a silly "crisis".
What is male menopause?
Andropause, often called male menopause, refers to a decline in androgens - namely, testosterone - in a man's body as he ages. When a man is around 18 years old, his testosterone is at peak production levels (thus, the "hormonal" teenager). Production drops off slightly as a man enters his upper 20s; however, testosterone generally remains at a healthy level for most of a man's life. As a man reaches his 50s, however, testosterone production is often significantly reduced, and this is when noticeable signs begin to crop up.
Since testosterone is responsible for much of what makes men manly, including sex drive, the creation and release of sperm, muscular strength and growth, as well as facial and body hair growth, the sudden drop in testosterone levels can be rather disconcerting.
Menopause vs. andropause - what's the difference?
Labeling this decline in testosterone "male menopause" can be fairly misleading. While menopause occurs in all women, and is the result of a complete decline of sex hormones, this is not the case with men.
When a woman enters menopause, estrogen levels will disappear altogether. This total decline results in a complete loss of fertility, and will typically be accompanied by symptoms that are much more severe. While a man often faces a decline in androgen levels, his body will never completely quit producing testosterone. That means men continue to be fertile and will continue to produce sperm well into old age.
So while the conditions are similar, there are some very key differences between the two. Men should also be aware that there are treatments available to ease or resolve any symptoms that may arise.
What are the symptoms?
Nearly every man will experience the symptoms of andropause. Not every case will be serious, or even very noticeable; however, understanding the symptoms can remove some of the anxiety attached to this condition. Being aware of what to expect can also help a man take steps to delay, minimize, or even eliminate symptoms before they arise. Here are some of the most common symptoms of male menopause:
- Fatigue - As testosterone levels decline, energy also declines considerably. Where a man was once able to perform certain activities with ease, those same activities now require much greater effort and take a greater toll on him physically.
- Declining sex drive - Since testosterone is responsible for a man's sexual drive and performance, the hormonal decline results in less interest in sex. A man may go from having sex several times a week in his 20s to once or twice a month by the time he reaches 50. Sex may become less enjoyable as well.
- Decline in sexual performance - A man may also find that he cannot sustain an erection as long as before, or may have difficulty achieving erection at all. Orgasms may be less intense, and ejaculate may be significantly decreased.
- Forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating - When men enter male menopause, there is often a noticeable difference in their memory and ability to focus or concentrate. A man might seem more confused, distracted or forgetful, where he was once sharp and focused. While most men are usually strong in this area, it can become quite a problem when testosterone levels are at such a low.
- Depression, anger, irritability, and anxiety - This will likely be more noticeable in men who are usually at an even keel. Many men who are typically easy-going and even-tempered may suddenly have a short fuse. Men who once dealt with frustrations and irritations with ease suddenly find themselves less able to cope with the difficulties. Depression can often overshadow even the happiest of men when testosterone levels are in decline.
- Muscle loss and weight gain - Most men gain tend to gain that "spare tire" around the waist as they hit middle age, and andropause bears much of the blame. Due to low testosterone levels, men begin to lose muscle mass. That muscle is quickly replaced by fat, which tends to accumulate around the middle.
- Osteoporosis - While bone loss begins much later in men than in women, by the time a man hits his 40s or 50s, bone loss becomes a real concern. This can be a symptom of andropause, as testosterone contributes to healthy bone growth.
- Sleep disorders - Often when a man enters male menopause he will begin to have difficulty sleeping. He may have a hard time falling asleep, or he may have broken, restless sleep much of the time. Since the body uses the time asleep to heal and repair itself, this broken sleep tends to exacerbate the other problems a man is already facing.
- Confusion, indecisiveness, lack of self-confidence - A man finds much of his confidence is being strong, being able to solve problems, take care of things efficiently, and having power to get things done. When so much of his body is affected by declining hormone levels, a man can lose much of his confidence. He can become indecisive, confused, and unsure of himself.
How is andropause diagnosed?
If you feel you may be suffering some of the symptoms of male menopause, talk to your doctor. The doctor will run some tests to see how your testosterone levels are doing, and will ask questions about symptoms you are experiencing. Discussing your concerns with your doctor can not only put your mind at rest regarding male menopause; but it can address any other conditions that might be causing your symptoms.
Can male menopause be treated?
If the symptoms you are experiencing can be traced back to male menopause, your doctor may prescribe testosterone replacement therapy. This treatment can help to ease some of the symptoms of androgen deficiency, including decreased libido, fatigue, and depression.
In addition, your doctor may suggest certain lifestyle changes in addition to or in place of therapy. A simple change in diet or a new exercise program may offer substantial relief from many of the symptoms you might be facing.
Article Source: EzineArticles.com/ John A wellard