Male menopause is a condition which mainly affects older men. Male menopause carries a set of symptoms which are linked to declining testosterone levels and ageing. It is also known as andropause; androgen decline in the ageing male, experiencing late-onset hypogonadism and low testosterone.
There is actually a reason behind it is being called male menopause. It’s because it can produce many of the same symptoms which are similar to female menopause. It is not something that every man will experience. But all the symptoms are very real.
Both male menopause and female menopause have some serious effect on people’s lives and it also affects their sexual, physical, and mental health. The symptoms of male menopause include weight gain, irritability, low sex drive and function, sleeping problems, depression, fatigue and loss of strength. It may also include hot flashes.
The female menopause is a very common phenomenon whereas the male menopause is hardly discussed.
Is the male menopause a real thing?
If we talk about biological terms, then there is no such thing as the male menopause. But, there are some men who undergo changes to their hormone levels which are quite similar to menopausal women.
So, that means the changes which are seen around the same age are sometimes referred to as the male menopause.
The main difference between female and male menopause
Testosterone levels in men drop slightly after 30 years almost every year and the level of SHBG (sex hormone-binding globulin) increases every year.
Along with the fact that the whole population’s testosterone levels are dropping year on year and altogether it leads to a gradual decrease in the level of testosterone, which means the lower testosterone in the body and thus may show some menopause-like symptoms.
However, the level of testosterone usually does not drop suddenly as oestrogen levels do in the female menopause.
If we talk about women, the level of oestrogen drops dramatically after a certain age where the body can no longer reproduce. This has evolved as a mechanism to move an older woman’s role away from child-bearing into the support of her grandchildren. In men, the kind of same pressure does not exist but testosterone levels may decline in general.
Similarities between male and female menopause
It occurs at a similar age of life.
In men, there is a drop in the level of testosterone after the age of 30 and it leads to a low testosterone level, which generates some symptoms in men of menopause. This occurs at the same age as women experience their menopause. This is one of the reasons it is known as male menopause.
Both men and women can be treated with hormone replacement therapy.
Also, both of them have similar signs and symptoms.
What are the signs of male menopause?
- joint pain
- low energy
- low mood
- low sex drive/libido
- poor sleep
- reduced bone density
- sexual dysfunction (erection issues in men)
- sweating/ hot flushes
Both male and female menopause usually have similar symptoms and signs. There is some cross-over here as both have an effect on the hormonal system.
The male menopause affects testosterone mainly and it has a huge effect on oestrogen levels as in men oestrogen is converted mainly from testosterone. In the case of female menopause, symptoms are primarily related to reduced oestrogen levels and sometimes testosterone may also be an issue.
How are they treated?
If someone is suffering from menopause, be it men or women, the hormonal levels do not return to normal on their own.
So, hormone replacement therapy is the most effective treatment of menopause for both men and women. As the name of the treatment itself suggests, the low levels of hormones are replaced with a medication containing the same hormone at higher levels. It brings patients back to their normal levels and relieves symptoms of menopause. Find out more about male hormone replacement here.
If not male menopause, what else it could be?
There are some symptoms of male menopause or low testosterone which are the same as other conditions that occur around the same age.
Anxiety and depression can also occur even with normal testosterone levels. These actually cause low mood and can affect energy levels and libido.
Stress usually increases around the age of 30 for men and women because of increased responsibility at work and family.
Obesity or poor nutrition can also lead to hormonal disruption and a lot of the signs which are mentioned above.
All the above reasons can reduce the hormone level drastically, so there is often a chicken and egg type situation. This can mean it isn’t obvious which is the initial issue.
How can I tell what is causing my symptoms?
The best way to diagnose male menopause is to order a blood test.
It quickly helps you determine whether you have low testosterone levels that need treatment.
You have to make sure that you get a blood test which covers total and free testosterone levels such as the one sold here from Optimale. The total testosterone can be much higher than the free testosterone in older men with a high SHBG. It is not usually tested by many labs and the NHS.
Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.