The male MENOPAUSE
FOR MEN, ABOUT MEN
WEAKNESS, depression and low libido are some of the things women experience as they age, conditions associated with the menopause most people know about. But it's less known that the same is true for men who experience hormone-related changes as they get older.
Doctors are still at odds as to whether to call this period male menopause, because these hormonal changes in men happen gradually, whereas they are more dramatic in women and occur within a specific time period. Instead, many doctors use the term andropause to describe these hormonal changes in men.
"Andropause is a clinical syndrome seen in men, associated with advancing age and manifested with symptoms related to lowered testosterone (male hormone) levels," said urologist Dr Belinda Morrison.
"The prevalence of this condition is six to 12 per cent in men between 40 and 70 years of age. Unfortunately, only 10 per cent of men are treated as symptoms may be trivialised or ignored. Fifteen to 30 per cent of diabetic or obese men experience andropause," she explained.
Due to the decline in their testosterone levels, some men experience symptoms such as depression, fatigue, hypersensitivity, insomnia and irritability. Subtle changes can start occurring with the functioning of the testes from as early as 45 years old and some men also experience a lack of libido.
"They may notice that their spontaneous and stimulated penile erections are fewer and weaker," said Dr Morrison.
"Less commonly, some men notice breast swelling and loss of body or facial hair. It may be associated with hot flashes, similar to those seen in women in menopause. They get an intense feeling of heat to the face and upper body, which lasts for a few seconds or minutes," she said.
Men also experience a decline in the male hormone with conditions such as diabetes or with heavy alcoholic consumption, the use of certain medications and thyroid problems. In order to make a diagnosis of andropause, doctors usually perform a physical examination, and conduct tests to rule out other possible conditions. A blood test can also be done to measure testosterone levels. Testosterone replacement therapy can be used to relieve some of the symptoms as well as a good diet and exercise programme.
"Testosterone has many beneficial effects in men and this is not isolated to sexual functions only. It helps in the production of facial and body hair. It maintains overall strength and muscle mass. It helps in the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow so that men aren't anaemic," Dr Morrison noted.
The doctor explained that andropause can put men at risk for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and causes psychological and emotional challenges for men. The lowering of testosterone has been shown to contribute to a decrease in motivation and self-confidence. If you suspect you are experiencing symptoms of andropause, it is very important that you be open with your doctor who will help to determine a treatment option for you.