Andropause or male menopause is a name that has been given to the menopause like conditions in the aging men. This relates to the slow but steady reduction in the production of the hormones testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone in middle aged men. The reduction in the production of testosterone hormone is the result of the decrease in the Leydig Cells in the testicles.
Unlike women, middle-aged men do not experience a complete and permanent physiological shutting down of the reproductive system as a normal event. A steady decline in testosterone levels with age (in both men and women) is well documented.
Unlike “menopause”, the word “andropause” is not currently recognized by the World Health Organization and its ICD-10 medical classification. This is likely because “Andropause” is term of convenience describing the stage of life when symptoms in aging appear in men. While the words are sometimes used interchangeably, hypogonadalism a deficiency state in which the hormone testosterone goes below the normal range for even an aging male.
Andropause is associated with loss of libido and potency, nervousness, depression, impaired memory, the inability to concentrate, fatigue, insomnia, hot flushes, and sweating. Andropause has also been observed in association with Alzheimer’s disease and in some cases with Osteoporosis. While andropause does not cause a man’s reproductive system to stop working altogether, many will experience bouts of impotence.
Andropause is a distinct condition which is the result of the biological changes experienced by men during mid-life, and it is often compared to female menopause. Although, menopause is a complete cessation of reproductive ability caused by the shutting down of the female reproductive system but andropause is merely a decline in the male hormone testosterone. Andropause is usually caused by a very gradual testosterone deficiency and an increase in sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) that occurs from age 35 onwards. By contrast, women have a sudden onset of menopause around age 51. Testosterone declines 10% every decade after age 30 (1% per year). Premature andropause can occur in males who experience excessive female hormone stimulation through workplace exposure to estrogen. Men who work in the pharmaceutical industry, plastics factories, near incinerators, and on farms that use pesticides are high-risk for early andropause. About 30% of men in their 50’s experience andropause. The term “male menopause” may be a misnomer, as unlike women, men’s reproductive systems do not cease to work completely in mid-life; some men continue to father children late into their lives (at age 90 or older).
Many believe that andropause is not a valid concept, because men can continue to reproduce into old age. Their reproductive systems do not stop working completely, and therefore they do not exhibit the sudden and dramatic drops in hormone levels characteristic of women undergoing menopause. It should be noted that in some men before the age of 60 there is a complete loss of libido, erectile function, and orgasmic ability.
Some argue that many of the cited symptoms are not specific enough to warrant describing a new condition. For example, people who are overweight may be misguided into treating a new illness rather than addressing the lifestyle that lead to their being overweight. Similarly, energy levels vary from person to person, and for people who are generally inactive, energy levels will automatically be lower overall.
Although there is disagreement over whether or not andropause is a condition to be “diagnosed” and “treated”, those who support that position have made several proposals to address andropause and mitigate some of its effects.
The following treatments are in vogue –
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Use of selective receptor modulators
- Exercise, Dietary Changes and Stress Reduction