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Male Menopause: Myth or Reality

Sep 15, 2021

Male Menopause: Myth or Reality

Aging does come with hormone changes. In women, the time of change is called menopause, and it results in a dramatic plunge of reproductive hormones, leading to several unwelcome and frustrating side effects. Men also encounter a change in sex hormones, but it is more gradual, often occurring over several years; many people refer to this portion of a man’s life as male menopause but is that an accurate comparison.

The Myth of Male Menopause

Considering menopause represents a rapid hormonal and bodily change in a woman’s life, it would seem unfair and somewhat insulting to compare male hormonal decline to menopause, especially as this is a time when ovulation ends. Obviously, men cannot relate. The hormonal decline in men is often slow and non-symptomatic, typically lasting years.

On average, testosterone levels in men decline approximately 1% per year after 40, with most older men maintaining testosterone levels in a normal range. Only about 10% to 25% of men will experience low testosterone levels in their lifetime, and even then, they are likely to be non-symptomatic.

Even for men who experience low testosterone symptoms, medical professionals might find it challenging to attribute the symptoms to testosterone levels as symptoms tend to mimic those of age and some medications. Still, some of the signs of low testosterone include:

  • Reduced sexual desire
  • Infertility
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Height loss
  • Low bone mineral density
  • Hot flushes or sweats
  • Breast discomfort or swelling

Aside from physical symptoms, men might also experience depression, decreased energy, a lack of confidence or motivation, and poor concentration. In some cases, men have also experienced lethargy, mild insomnia, anemia, reduced strength and muscle bulk, and increased body fat.

While several of these symptoms might sound familiar to menopause, like hot flushes and sweats, the hormonal and bodily changes are entirely different. Comparing one to the other is like comparing apples to bowling balls.

Treating Low Testosterone in Older Men

In most cases, a doctor will not test for low testosterone unless a patient is symptomatic, and even then, it is a grueling and drawn-out process to confirm a diagnosis. A patient must first submit to blood tests. If the test shows a decrease in testosterone, another test is done to corroborate the results. Finally, after confirmation, a doctor will recommend further testing of the pituitary gland to rule out other potential deficiencies.

If a patient does have low testosterone levels, a doctor might recommend testosterone therapy, depending on age, history, and several other factors. While testosterone therapy can improve sex drive and reduce adverse signs and symptoms of low testosterone, it is not without its risks.

According to some research, testosterone therapy might be linked to metastatic prostate and breast cancer, but more research is needed. Additional concerns are an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clots. Testosterone therapy might also adversely affect fertility. Before starting or agreeing to testosterone therapy, make sure you have a thorough conversation with your doctor and ask any clarifying questions to determine if treatment is right for you.

Most men will not experience severe symptoms or any symptoms of low testosterone as they age, and in most cases, testosterone levels will remain within the normal range. Male menopause is a myth. While some men might experience hot flushes or swelling, it is not the same as women experience. However, that is not to say that men can’t experience similarly jarring age-related and psychological symptoms of getting older.

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Category: health