What is Andropause?

Andropause is a term used to describe a menopause-like condition in men as they age. Levels of testosterone, the primary male sex hormone, decrease gradually in men during the aging process and, in addition, a protein called sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) begins to increase. SHBG binds to testosterone, further decreasing the amount of active testosterone available in the body. Although this occurs in all men as they age, there is no way to predict who will suffer from “male menopause.” Other terms for this condition include testosterone deficiency, androgen deficiency of the aging male (ADAM), and hypogonadism.

Is male menopause real?

As more people use the term andropause, some researchers and doctors are stressing that this term is misleading. In women, menopause occurs rather quickly when levels of sex hormones plummet and ovulation ends. This results in the end of fertility for women. However, the decrease of testosterone in men usually occurs very gradually and does not result in complete infertility. This calls into question whether the term andropause is actually a misnomer. However, the result of large decreases in testosterone can be devastating to some.

Causes and Symptoms

Although the main cause of testosterone decline is age, there are causes associated with andropause. Though not fully researched yet, some risk factors for male menopause include excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, a lack of exercise, smoking, some medications, and a poor diet.

The symptoms of a testosterone deficiency are very similar to those associated with aging in general. They include a loss of energy, depression, decreased sex drive and erectile dysfunction, decreased muscle mass and increased fat mass, osteoporosis, and even cardiovascular risks. These symptoms all have an adverse effect on quality of life but many men do not seek medical advice or treatment for these common symptoms.

Treatment

Testosterone Replacement Therapy can be used to treat andropause, although this treatment regime is still controversial. Although there are clear benefits with TRT, there can be just as many risks associated with the treatment as well. Using TRT to increase the amount of testosterone can improve energy and muscle mass, decrease depression and anxiety, and restore sex drive. Unfortunately, TRT can also result in high cholesterol, infertility, and prostate cancer.

Under strict supervision, most physicians feel that TRT is probably safe. While this treatment should not be used for vague complaints or for mild symptoms of aging, many feel it is appropriate for treating the more severe symptoms of testosterone deficiencies.

In addition to testosterone replacement therapy, merely making healthier lifestyle choices can help decrease the effects of lower levels of sex hormones. Eating a healthy diet and getting regular physical exercise can help maintain energy levels, strength and muscle mass while even improving your mood and concentration.

References

Andropause.com

Male Menopause: Myth or Realty?

Andropause: Does it Really Exist?

Medical Implications of the Male Biological Clock JAMA. 2006 (2960, 2369-2371.

Andropause: an androgen efficiency state in the ageing male. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2003: 4(2). 183-190.