The topic of male menopause sparks debate in the medical community. Unlike female menopause, male menopause happens over a longer period, and the symptoms are not always clear. Until recently, it was believed that the existence of male menopause was just a myth, but recently, new information about this condition has emerged, and it is now believed that one in four men will develop it in their lifetime.
What Is Male Menopause?
Most are aware of menopause which occurs in women when they experience hormone changes that lead to the end of their menstrual cycle. In men, male menopause is characterized by a slow decline in testosterone and androgens over time. Some clinicians continue to hesitate to call these changes “male menopause” even though they do recognize age-related declines in testosterone.
Regardless of whether you choose to call it “Low T,” “andropause,” or “male menopause,” it can have a significant impact on your life. Testosterone levels begin to fall about 1% per year beginning about age 40, but some sources say it can start as early as age 30. The decline is usually slow and takes place over a period of decades.
Symptoms of Male Menopause
Testosterone is a hormone produced in the testicles. It helps maintain many body functions, including bone density, fat distribution, muscle mass, strength, facial and body hair, lust, red blood cell production, and sperm production. Testosterone levels peak during the teen years and early adulthood but decline in later years.
Male menopause can cause many different symptoms. Some men with low testosterone do not experience any symptoms at all, while others will experience several of them. The severity of the symptoms can range from mild to debilitating. Here are a few of the signs you might have low testosterone.
- Reduced lust
- Erectile dysfunction
- Smaller testes
- Chronic fatigue
- Weight gain
- Reduced muscle mass
- Lower strength and endurance
- Loss of motivation
- Lack of concentration
- Memory difficulties
Low testosterone cannot be diagnosed symptomatically. If you present to a physician with symptoms that might indicate a hormonal imbalance, your doctor will order tests. The only way to confirm a case of low testosterone is with blood tests.
If you experience any of the symptoms on this list, it is important to understand that other conditions, like hypothyroidism, can also have similar symptoms. Normal testosterone levels in the blood can range from over 300 ng/dl to 1,000 ng/dl. Factors like age, overall fitness levels, diet, and medical history are used to determine the correct level for you.
Finding Treatment for Male Menopause?
The good news is that if tests confirm you have low testosterone, hormone replacement therapy is available. It can come in the form of an injection, patch, gel cap, or pill. Many types are available, including nasal sprays, implantable pellets, and products absorbed through the gums. Your doctor will help determine the right level, and type, and when to adjust it in the future.
Some products are available over-the-counter that claim to help with low testosterone, but these are not the same as hormone replacement therapy. The only way to get hormone replacement therapy is with a prescription. Many of the products available over-the-counter have not been tested and contain various nutritional supplements thought to help with low testosterone.
Before you begin male menopause treatment, it is important to discuss both the benefits and risks of the treatment. In some people, testosterone replacement therapy has been known to make sleep apnea worse, cause acne and rashes, worsen existing prostate cancer, and cause noncancerous growth of the prostate. Some men have reported limited sperm production, shrinking testicles, enlarged breasts, and blood clots. Some evidence also suggests a link between testosterone therapy and an increased risk of heart disease. Male menopause is real, even if some doctors are hesitant to call it that. Low testosterone is treatable, and hormone therapy can help improve your quality of life, especially if you are symptomatic. Since not all men with low testosterone experience symptoms, it is important to get your levels checked as you advance in age and begin to experience any of these symptoms. Getting older does not need to slow you down.
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