Menopause is a very common thing for women. In fact, at a certain age (between 50-55), a woman is expected to hit her menopause. However, do you know that there is something called the andropause (otherwise known as the male menopause)?
Andropause also has known as the male menopause is a point or a period in a man’s life when he begins to experience low hormonal levels. Just as menopause for women is age-related, andropause also affects men of a certain age range (50-60years).
According to research, andropause is gradually becoming a common problem as more than 30% of the male population report of the same symptoms which women complain of when they are in their perimenopause stage or in menopause.
Most doctors often refer to andropause as androgen deficiency, late-onset hypogonadism or testosterone deficiency because of the similarities of their symptoms. Males who are experiencing andropause would notice that they experience a drop in their testosterone levels.
Normally, as a man, the hormone called testosterone is produced in your testes. Contrary to popular opinion, although testosterone is responsible for your sex drive and effectiveness, however, that is not its only function.
As a young boy who just attained puberty, testosterone is responsible for the changes that go on your body. The deep voice, the development of your broad shoulders, the increase in your muscle mass is made possible by the functions of testosterone flowing in your blood.
Also, other function of testosterone includes the fuelling of your body energy, maintenance of your mental capacity, regulation of your fight or flight tendencies and so on. It is important, however, to note that the male menopause is different from that of the females.
While all females will experience menopause, not all males will experience andropause. Also, another key difference is that while, after a female experiences menopause, most of her sexual and reproductive organs begin to shut down, in the case of andropause, it is not so.
When a man experiences andropause, his sexual organs will not completely shut down; however, he would experience the low sexual drive, among other things. There are certain changes that a man must note in his reproductive cycle.
When the male child is young(i.e. before he hits puberty), his testosterone levels are very low. As the child grows older, his testosterone levels gradually increase until he hits the peak.
The increase in testosterone levels is what causes the building of his muscle mass, deepening of his voice, changes in his sexual appearance as well as the growth of hairs on his body.
According to research, males tend to reach their peak at the age of 30, after which they begin to experience a gradual decline.
Causes of Andropause
Andropause is said to occur when there is a reduction in the amount of testosterone produced in a man. There are several conditions that can lead to a reduction in the production of testosterone in a man. They include;
Primary hypogonadism is said to occur when the testes become underproductive. In this case, the problem comes from the testes itself.
The testes do not produce enough testosterone that can be used for general optimal health and as such cause a reduction in the levels of testosterone, causing andropause to occur.
The reduction in the productivity of the testes is often as a result of inherited problems. Some of such problems include:
During intrauterine life, the testicles are usually in the abdomen. During the sixth to 9th month(last trimester), the testes descend from the abdomen into the scrotum.
If there is a problem with this descent, there will be a problem in the production of testosterone causing andropause.
This syndrome is caused when the male child is born with three sex chromosomes. Normally, everyone is born with two chromosomes; either XX(female) or XY(male). However, in certain unusual conditions, a person can be born with three different chromosomes.
When this occurs, the male will have several issues, including andropause.
This is a condition in which the person has way too much iron in his bloodstream. Too much iron can result in pituitary damage as well as testicular failure leading to testicular failure.
Injury or damage to the testicles
If there is any physical injury that can result in the damage or destruction of the testicles, it can result in andropause.
Mumps is an infection. When mumps becomes so severe to affect the testicles, it can result in the damage of the testicles resulting in low testosterone production causing andropause.
Cancer is a very serious condition which needs radical treatments such as chemotherapy. In conditions where the radiation destroys the testicles, it can result in andropause.
Unlike in primary hypogonadism that the problem is originating from the testes, in secondary hypogonadism is said to occur when the patient has a problem with either the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland.
The pituitary gland, as well as the hypothalamus, are the regulators of testosterone production. These two organs are parts of the brain that decide when the production of testosterone should happen.
Any condition that affects these two parts, it can lead to the underproduction of testosterone, causing andropause to occur. Some conditions that can affect the pituitary gland, as well as the hypothalamus, include:
Pituitary disorders which can be caused by drugs, the presence of small tumours or kidney failure.
This is a condition that is caused by a malfunction in the functions of the hypothalamus.
Certain inflammatory diseases such as histiocytosis, tuberculosis and sarcoidosis which can damage the functions do both the hypothalamus and the pituitary can result in the recursion in the production of testosterone causing andropause to occur.
Immune disease such as HIV/AIDS when not properly treated can result in the damage of the testes, the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland respectively.
It is said that as you grow older, your body function gradually declines, and this doesn’t exclude the testes. As you grow older, your production of testosterone reduces and can lead to andropause.
Having a high level of cholesterol and fat in your body can lead to a reduction in a person’s hormonal levels as such, resulting in andropause.
Certain medications such as pain meds made from opioids as well as steroids can reduce the overall function of the hypothalamus as well as the pituitary gland leading to several hormonal malfunctions including andropause.
Symptoms of Andropause
Andropause can result in the development of physical, psychological as well as sexual problems that tend to increase as a person grows older.
Some of the symptoms a man may likely experience include:
- Low energy levels
- Low self-esteem and low self-confidence
- Depression and sadness
- Decreased motivation
- Difficulties in sleeping leading to insomnia
- Increase in body fat and weight
- Gynecomastia(which is characterized by the unusual growth and development of breasts)
- A decrease in bone density
- Reduced sexual activities as a result of low libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- Body hair loss
- Reduction in the size of the testicle
- Hot flashes
In some cases, reduce levels of testosterone has been associated as one of the causes of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition when the bones become weak and extremely brittle. These are one of the signs that one may experience upon entering into menopause.
Treatment of Andropause
Although andropause can sometimes be scary, however, it is a very treatable condition. Some of the treatment options available for andropause include:
One of the most important things your doctor will ask you to do first is to change some certain habits that you may have. Some of this habit changes include:
- Eating healthy diets
- Get enough rest and sleep
- reduce your stress levels
- Ensure you do regular exercises.
Hormonal Replacement Therapy
If you are still experiencing these difficulties, then your doctor may go ahead to recommend other radical treatments such as Hormonal Replacement Therapy. This treatment option is considered a rather controversial treatment.
This is because some of the drugs used in this treatment such as power-enhancing steroids, synthetic testosterone and so on can cause serious side effects which can end up becoming serious and life-threatening.
In conclusion, although it is quite normal for the testosterone levels of a man to decline as he grows older, however, not all men develop andropause. For most men, the symptoms are extremely manageable even without the use of drugs or any form of treatment.
However, if your symptoms are beginning to bring you discomforts, then it is imperative that you speak to your doctor about it. Your doctor will, in turn, prescribe drugs nor life-changing methods that will help you manage and treat your symptoms.
- Male Menopause; Healthline