Andropause: Male Menopause - Myth or Reality?
Is there really such a thing as male menopause? More than a few middle-aged men have reported symptoms like loss of sexual desire, weight gain, fatigue, changes in sleeping patterns, and mood swings. Some experts say that these symptoms may be caused by testosterone deficiency syndrome (hypogonadism). Specifically, this term encompasses the hormonal, psychological, and sexual symptomatology of this nature that middle-aged or elderly men present. Other professionals use the term “andropause” for this set of symptoms. The fact that there are two names used for it reflects the lack of consensus in the medical community about the nature of this condition.
If you analyze the common medical complaints of middle-aged people, you might think men and women complain about similar things. Up until a few years ago, the symptoms of menopause were only attributed to women. Nevertheless, this is starting to change. Not long ago, some experts coined a term when this symptomatology affects men: andropause.
Of course, hormonal levels and physical characteristics are very different between genders. There are, however, some bodily changes that can result in similar medical complaints. Science is advancing all the time on this front and it’s shedding more light on these issues.
Testosterone as the central player in andropause
Testosterone levels in men begin to drop at the age of 40. They continue to drop between 1 and 2 percent each year after that. As an article in the European Journal of Pain states, both men and women have testosterone. The difference is that men have more of it. It’s responsible for hormonal changes and it participates in muscle, bone, and sexual organ growth.
As such, it’s no wonder that lower levels of this hormone can result in symptomatology related to sexual functioning. It can affect things such as sexual desire, the ability to have an erection, or sperm production. Aside from affecting people sexually, it can also affect other bodily functions such as sleep. Some experts call this andropause.
If a doctor finds that there’s a testosterone deficit (in other words, hypogonadism) and they have confirmed the diagnosis medically, the patient may turn to hormonal treatment. The problem is that some men abuse hormonal treatments and take them without needing them.
The medical authorities in the United States have had to warn people that these treatments should only be used by those who need them. Thus, only people with some disease or injury that affects their permanent testosterone levels should use them. These treatments aren’t appropriate for men who’re going through the normal aging process. You shouldn’t use testosterone patches, pills, or injections without medical control. Doing so could expose you to health risks.
Testosterone deficiency syndrome
Recent studies published in Spanish by the journal Mente y Cerebro (Mind and Brain) confirm the existence of this set of symptoms. Frank Sommer is a urologist at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf and the world’s preeminent male health expert. He has criticized the fact that the medical community hasn’t been able to agree on a name for this set of symtoms.
As we have stated before, some professionals call it “andropause” while others use diagnostic labels such as testosterone deficiency syndrome. However, no matter what a practitioner chooses to call it, the symptomatology the patients present is the same.
According to this urologist, men who consult him for this issue don’t experience the exact same symptoms typical of women with menopause. Even so, their symptoms are very similar.
Sommer proposes dividing the symptoms of testosterone deficiency syndrome into three categories: psychological, physical, and sexual. If a patient presents symptoms in the three areas as well as low testosterone levels, then he diagnoses them with testosterone deficiency syndrome.
This criteria aims to avoid basing the diagnosis solely on hormonal levels. The rest of the symptoms are also important. This categorization can also help doctors avoid incorrect diagnoses. Additionally, it helps avoid patient abuse of hormonal treatments when they might benefit more from other forms of therapy.
Hormonal treatments used to treat testosterone deficiency syndrome are controversial. However, many studies show that this type of treatment can produce positive results for many patients.
Many males with hypogonadism are put under hormonal treatments, but suffer a relapse in symptoms. Many physicians criticize hormonal treatments because there’s not a lot of knowledge regarding possible long-term side effects. Some of these may include circulatory system illnesses such as strokes or heart attacks.
Hormonal treatments should be the exception rather than the rule when it comes to treating andropause. The symptoms some men present aren’t caused by low testosterone levels. Instead, they arise from psychological crises derived from the life changes a man faces in this new stage of his life. If this is a patient’s case, experts recommend psychotherapeutic rather than hormonal treatments.
A stressful lifestyle, relationship problems, body image problems, or life crises can result in physical as well as psychological conditions. Many professionals agree that men can often deal with some of the symptoms of andropause with psychological therapy. This type of therapy can be extremely helpful for managing emotional changes that men experience as they get older. Lifestyle improvement can also help relieve or reduce many of the symptoms. For example, diet or exercise changes can be especially helpful.
The changes people experience as they age are sometimes difficult to accept. Certain personal and social conflicts make living with the same vitality you enjoyed in earlier stages of your life an uphill battle.
Physical changes and health problems can also significantly impact your mood. The way you deal with your psychological state can be the compass that shows you the path for enjoying your present and your future. It can also help you outline the history of your past. A psychological assessment can be very useful for learning to manage the new stages of your life.It might interest you...
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- Janosch, D. (2018). ¿Existe la andropausia? Mente y Cerebro. Nº 91, 58-63.