Andropause: Men’s Menopause
“Women are not the only ones who experience menopausal symptoms”, doctors claim. How true is this and what should men know about it?
Many thought that only females experience the anxiety of being in the menopausal stage. Surprisingly, medical experts are proposing the possibility of the existence of andropause or MANopause, the counterpart of menopause for males. They notice that men’s reports on experiencing symptoms similar to menopause have been increasing drastically over the years. This is the reason for the ongoing debate on whether or not males undergo the same process. This term has been existing in medical literature since the early 1940s however during the time, methods for proper diagnosis were not available. What exactly is andropause and how does it differ from menopause?
Doctors refer to it as a condition wherein aging males have great decline in testosterone or androgen production. This goes along with difficulties in sexual activities due to erectile disfunction, uncontrolled temper, anxiety, back pains, difficulty in sleeping, forgetfulness, hair fall, irritability, overfatigue, depression, development of gynecomastia (male breasts) and unexplainable and sudden weakness. Symptoms are normal for diabetics however, the debate resulted from a considerable number of non-diabetic aging males who reported the same body conditions. The signs are noticed gradually unlike menopause wherein abrupt changes occur.
Androgen is responsible for signaling the body to produce sperm, determining the possibility of having a male child and controlling sexual interest and potency. It also affects the prostate, muscles, bones and the central nervous system. This is the reason why lower androgen level comes with the aforementioned symptoms that greatly affect men.
Normally, a man in his 80s or later can still produce enough sperms for fertilization. This is why andropause differs greatly from menopause. Ovaries can run out of substances that produce egg cells whereas the testes only slows down and produce smaller amounts of sperm than they should.
This malfunction in males’ testes can be seen as early as their 40s. Thirty years after that, more dramatical decline in testosterone level may occur. Doctors say that it is fairly common for men to have it. 2 to 6 percent of men in their 40s, 6 to 40 percent of those in their 50s, 20 to 45 percent of those in their 60s and 34 to70 percent of those in their 70s have it. By analyzing the given statistical data, it is safe to say that older men have higher risks of having andropause. What are the possible causes of this testosterone production deficiency?
External causes related to this condition are excessive alcohol intake, stress, recent surgical operations, side effects of certain medication, traumatic brain injury, lack of sexual activity, lack of sleep and poor diet.
The internal causes include downturn in the proper circulation of male hormones and drastic shift in hormonal patterns. How can a man be diagnosed of this condition?
A doctor will conduct a series of physical examination and ask him if he is experiencing any unusual physical or mental changes. After this, the doctor will order the patient to undergo tests to identify medical conditions that may be triggering the situation. Blood tests and testosterone level tests will also be conducted. What would happen if a male is diagnosed of such condition? Is there treatment he can undergo? How much money should be prepared for the treatment?
Testosterone replacement therapy is known to relieve some of the symptoms including decreased libido which is the cause of loss of sexual interest and potency. It can also relieve depression and overfatigue and enhance bone density and muscular strength.
The replacement therapy is available in various forms such as patches, topical gels and injections amounting to about $300 monthly. Gels are more often used than the others because they have fewer side effects and they are more affordable. Injectibles function quickly but have higher risks of negative aftereffects.
The downside of this therapy is the possibility of worsening prostate cancer. Additional adverse effects of this kind of supplementation include risks of strokes and heart attacks, increased hematocrit, oily skin, significant loss of hair and spermatogenesis.
Before anyone undergoes testosterone replacement, he should consult his doctor and ask about the possible risks. Each male has a different body condition therefore, what works for the one may not work for another. He must inform the doctor about his allergies, former operations, medical history and the like. Also, a man undergoing the therapy should observe proper diet, undergo regular exercise programs and take antidepressants.
The concept of this male condition is still not universally accepted. What are the reasons why clinicians argue about the possibility of this medical condition despite the reports regarding the symptoms?
Debates exist because some believe that male menopause is not an acceptable concept. They say that unlike women, men are capable of reproducing even until their old age. In addition to this argument, men’s reproductive systems do not completely break down during midlife therefore they do not exhibit the same conditions that women go through during their menopausal stage.
Other doctors from Europe and the United States claim that the so-called andropause is just the same with late onset hypogonadism (very low testosterone level) or androgen decline in aging men (ADAM). They also pointed out that the symptoms are not enough to describe a new medical condition. They explained that those symptoms may have other causes. Added to that, applying testosterone therapy to conditions that are not well-defined, proven and tested may be too risky.
Though the said arguments are still ongoing and the concept is being questioned, treatments are available in different parts of the world. The population of men undergoing the therapy and accepting the idea of male menopause is continuously increasing through the years.
While proponents and opponents on the existence of a condition called andropause still exist, belief or disbelief still rely on the hands of the public. Nonetheless, those opposing the idea are advising the public to be cautious and inquisitive on the aftereffects of undergoing treatment for that condition.