We’ve all heard of the menopause, a stage that all women go through when the balance of the body’s sex hormones changes. But did you know that men can have the menopause too, called andropause? Just like for women, some of the symptoms – such as tiredness, decreased bone density and depression – can feel disabling. Male sexual health company, Gainswave, explains more about the male menopause and what you can do if you have it.
School is meant to teach us lasting and useful lessons about mathematics, physics, French, and how to make book-ends using two nails, a blunt saw, and an old piece of skirting board from the garage. Some of it sticks, but most doesn’t.
What never fades, however, are the firsts. The first time a dog came into the playground and no one knew what to do. The first time a teacher accidentally swore after touching a Bunsen burner that was still hot. And the first time all of the girls got held back in assembly for a chat with some female staff.
“It’s about their periods and stuff” one boy would say. “What’s that?” another would add. And finally, “So glad I’m a boy, we have none of that to worry about”. When it comes to the menopause, think again…
What is andropause?
Andropause is the male menopause, affecting men aged roughly from their late 40s onwards. The term can be misleading as, unlike the menopause, which is a progressive change in the body’s sex hormones over a span of around four to five years, the andropause is more of an umbrella term.
Andropause is an accumulation of symptoms linked to the steady decline in male testosterone levels that occurs at a rate of under 2% per year from around the age of 30.
Symptoms of andropause
A decline in testosterone levels can lead to depression, which is often overlooked as a symptom of andropause – the GP is the best first port of call, not a psychiatrist.
Testosterone helps to regulate sleep. Lowered levels of testosterone can, therefore, lead to insomnia, resulting in a lack of drive, energy, and relative emotional instability.
Testosterone helps to maintain healthy bone density. The andropause is linked to symptoms of osteoporosis, where bones become brittle and susceptible to breaking.
A reduction in testosterone levels can affect the libido, meaning a lowered sex drive and potential issues with getting an erection, for which there is a range of erectile dysfunction treatments.
Testosterone slows the build-up of fat, so abdominal fat is a common symptom of low testosterone. Enzymes within the fat can also convert testosterone by oestrogen.
Other symptoms of andropause can include decreased muscle mass, a noticeable dip in self-confidence (which may develop further into symptoms of anxiety or nervousness), and a reduction in body hair.
The reassuring message for men who are experiencing symptoms of andropause is that lowered testosterone is not necessarily permanent and can be treated.
What to do if you think you have andropause
In general, symptoms of the andropause can be exacerbated through health and lifestyle choices. For example, processed foods, alcohol, and smoking are all linked to a reduction in testosterone level production in males. In contrast, exercise increases muscle mass, which in turn increases testosterone levels.
The doctor can help to isolate the probable causes of andropause and suggest treatments, which in some cases could include testosterone replacement therapy where necessary.
In rare cases, certain conditions, such as hypogonadism, may be present from birth, resulting in similar symptoms to andropause but requiring different treatments.
If you’re concerned or have a few of these symptoms, speak to your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.