The existence of male menopause has been debated for years. The issue has been confused by the fact that at times, the term "male menopause" has been used as a polite way to broach the topic of sexual impotence.
Although impotence can be a significant symptom of male menopause, it is not the only one. Male menopause is a term used to describe the hormonal and physiological changes that typically occur to men between the ages of 45 to 60. Some men accept these changes as a natural part of the aging process, while others see them as symptoms that need treatment.
Here are some facts will help you to understand male menopause, also sometimes known as viropause or andropause.
- What happens to testosterone as a man ages? A male's production of testosterone (the male sex hormone) slowly diminishes after a man reaches the age of 40. The drop in testosterone is gradual (about 1% per year) rather than precipitous as is the hormone drop experienced by women going through menopause. That's why the term "menopause" (or cessation of a woman's menstrual cycle) is a misnomer.
- What are the symptoms of male menopause? Symptoms of male menopause include irritability, mood swings, insomnia, decreased libido, impotence, lethargy, weakness, loss of lean body and bone mass and sometimes even hot flashes.
- Is decreased sex drive normal? Testosterone is responsible for sex drive ergo declining testosterone levels means a likelihood of a decreased sex drive. Keep in mind that by the age of 80, most men experience testosterone levels equivalent to those of a pre-pubescent boy.
- Is decreased sexual performance normal? More than half of normal, healthy men between the ages of 40 and 70 experience some degree of impotence (difficulty attaining and maintaining an erection suitable for sexual intercourse). A male's ability to perform sexually typically declines more rapidly than his desire. Physical stimulation is usually required to achieve an erection, and the erection is more difficult to maintain. Ejaculation is also slower and orgasms less intense.
- What is the cause of male menopause? The cause of male menopause is attributed to a variety of factors that include natural aging, a decrease in testosterone, and a lessening of one's overall physical and mental condition. Additionally, lifestyle habits such as alcohol consumption, eating and smoking habits, and amount of exercise all affect the degree to which a man experiences male menopause.
- Is treatment available? Treatment is generally testosterone replacement therapy, which can be delivered via injection, hormone gel, skin patch or implanted cartridge. Testosterone improves cardiovascular and bone health, along with sex drive, although its use has been associated with prostrate cancer, blood clots and liver problems. Although the exact relationship between testosterone and prostrate cancer remains unclear, testosterone is known to worsen prostrate cancer should it already exist. Testosterone also promotes hair loss.
- Do I need to see my doctor? Sometimes other physical illnesses, such as thyroid disorder, depression or anemia, can have symptoms that are similar to those of male menopause. Thus it is important to see your doctor if you are experiencing significant symptoms of male menopause. Additionally, the appropriateness of testosterone replacement therapy needs to be assessed on a case by case basis. Never self-administer testosterone as excessive levels can diminish testicle size and fertility, cause bouts of rage and may even create or aggravate prostrate problems.
Some men advocate seeing male menopause as the start of the second half of your life rather than as the end of life as you know it. Consider discussing your experiences at some of the forums available, such as that at The Andropause Society or reading Male Menopause by Jed Diamond for alternative perspectives on male menopause.