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The male menopause

Women may not be the only ones who suffer the effects of changing hormones. Some doctors are noticing that their male patients are reporting some of the same symptoms that women experience in the perimenopause and the menopause.

The medical community is currently debating whether or not men really do go through a well-defined menopause. Doctors say that male patients receiving replacement testosterone therapy have reported relief of some of the symptoms associated with the so-called male menopause.

What is male menopause?

Since men do not go through a well-defined period referred to as menopause, some doctors refer to this problem as androgen (testosterone) decline in the ageing male, or andropause. Men do experience a decline in the production and effect of the male hormone testosterone with ageing, but this also occurs with some disease states such as diabetes. Along with the decline in testosterone, some men experience symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, depression and sexual problems. The relationship of these symptoms to the decreased testosterone levels is still controversial.

Unlike menopause in women, which represents a well-defined period in which hormone production declines steeply, male hormone (testosterone) decline is a slower process. The testes do not run out of the substance it needs to make testosterone. A healthy male may be able to make sperm well into his eighties or later.

However, as a result of disease, subtle changes in the function of the testes may occur as early as 45 to 50 years of age, and more dramatically after the age of 70 in some men.

How is male menopause diagnosed?

If a doctor were to investigate the possibility of andropause in a man, they would perform a physical examination and ask about symptoms. They may order other diagnostic tests to rule out any medical problems that may be contributing to the symptoms. The doctor will then order a series of blood tests that may include several hormone levels, including a blood testosterone level.

Can male menopause be treated?

If testosterone levels are low, testosterone replacement therapy may help relieve such symptoms as loss of interest in sex (decreased libido), depression and fatigue. However, as with hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in women, testosterone replacement therapy does have some potential risks and side effects. Replacing testosterone may worsen prostate cancer, for example.

If you or a loved one is considering testosterone replacement therapy, seek medical advice to learn more. Your doctor may also recommend certain lifestyle changes, such as a new diet or exercise programme, or other medications, such as an antidepressant, to help with some of the symptoms of male “menopause”.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on June 20, 2012

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