As some men get older, they find themselves sharing many of the same symptoms as their wives experiencing menopause. They are carrying around extra weight they can’t seem to lose, have problems sleeping, lose interest in sex, experience mood swings, and feel tired and depressed. It can’t be menopause…or can it?
More and more researchers are beginning to agree that the natural decline in testosterone men tend to experience as they age can result in a cluster of symptoms known as “late-onset hypogonadism,” which is commonly referred to as male menopause, or andropause.
Just as a woman’s levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone decline in her forties and fifties, a man’s testosterone level also tends to go down with age.
“Males have a slow fall in testosterone from age 30. By 40 to 50, about 3 percent are testosterone deficient — and by 70 about 50 percent,” says John Morley, MD, geriatrician and director of the division of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo.
The Effects of Male Menopause
Dr. Morley says that not all men will experience symptoms of male menopause, but many will. “About half of men by [age] 70 will have male menopause,” he says.
When women go through menopause, they lose their fertility. While men can still be fertile during and after male menopause, they often experience symptoms similar to female menopause: problems with sex, sleep, mood, and physical fitness.
According to Morley, a man’s age-related decline in testosterone levels “can cause sexual problems, fatigue, and unhappiness, [and] also cause osteoporosis, loss of muscle, and perhaps frailty.”
In addition to these symptoms, a 2010 study published in the Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology & Research states that male menopause may be associated with a variety of health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
When to Talk to Your Doctor
Morley says that men who are experiencing symptoms of low testosterone, such as a lack of enthusiasm for sex, a soft erection, fatigue, declining athletic performance, unusual grumpiness, or hot flashes (a rare symptom), should talk to their doctor.
If your doctor suspects that low testosterone levels may be the cause of your symptoms, a simple blood test can be performed to measure testosterone levels. Since testosterone levels peak early in the day, it is best to get this test in the morning when they are at their highest.
If you do have a low testosterone level, your doctor may refer you to an endocrinologist or urologist with experience in managing symptoms of male menopause.
Testosterone Supplements for Male Menopause
“[Male menopause] can be treated with testosterone,” says Morley. The goal of testosterone therapy is to increase the amount of testosterone in your blood in order to improve your sex drive and erections, give you more energy and a better sense of well-being, improve your mood, reduce your body fat, and bolster your muscle and bone strength.
There are a number of types of testosterone supplement therapies, including testosterone injections (usually given biweekly), daily testosterone patches, daily testosterone skin gels, and testosterone tablets applied to the gums.
Since there are some potential risks associated with testosterone therapy, it is important to talk to your doctor about specific benefits and risks to you of using this treatment option. Testosterone therapy is generally not recommended for men with prostate cancer or benign prostate hyperplasia.
If you go on testosterone supplements or another form of this therapy, work closely with your doctor to monitor the success of the treatment and watch for signs of potential side effects, such as increased risk of stroke, thickened blood, and skin reactions.