Women may not be the only ones who suffer the effects of changing hormones.
Some doctors are noticing that their male patients are reporting some of the
same symptoms that women experience in menopause.
The medical community is currently debating whether or not men really do go
through a well-defined menopause. Doctors have reported that male patients
receiving hormone replacement therapy (testosterone) have reported relief of
some of the symptoms associated with so-called male menopause.
What is male menopause?
Since men do not go through a well-defined period referred to as menopause,
some physicians refer to this problem as androgen (testosterone) decline in the
aging male. Men do experience a decline in the production of the male hormone
testosterone with aging, but this also occurs with some disease states such as
diabetes. Along with the decline in testosterone, some men experience symptoms
such as fatigue, weakness, depression, and sexual problems. The relationship of
these symptoms to the decreased testosterone levels is still controversial.
Unlike menopause in women which represents a well-defined period in which
hormone production stops completely, male hormone (testosterone) decline is a
slower process. The testes, unlike the ovaries, does not stop making testosterone.
In addition to testosterone, the testes of a healthy male may be able to make sperm well
into his eighties or longer.
However, as a result of disease, subtle changes in the function of the testis
may occur as early as 45 to 50 years of age, and more dramatically after the age
of 70 in some men.
How is male menopause diagnosed?
To make the diagnosis, the doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about
symptoms. He or she may order other diagnostic tests to rule out any medical
problems that may be contributing to the condition. The doctor will then order a
series of blood tests which may include several hormone levels, including a
blood testosterone level.
Can male menopause be treated?
If testosterone levels are low, testosterone replacement therapy may help
relieve such symptoms as loss of interest in sex (decreased libido), depression,
and fatigue. But, as with hormone replacement therapy in women, testosterone
replacement therapy does have some potential risks and side effects. Replacing
testosterone may worsen prostate cancer, for example.
If you or a loved one is considering androgen replacement therapy, talk to a
doctor to learn more. Your doctor may also recommend certain lifestyle changes,
such as a new diet or exercise program, or other medications, such as an
antidepressant, to help with some of the symptoms of male menopause.
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