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Male Menopause:
S
ome men develop depression, loss of sex
drive, erectile dysfunction and other physical
and emotional symptoms when they reach
their late 40s to early 50s.
Other symptoms common in men this age are:
mood swings and irritability
loss of muscle mass and reduced ability to
exercise
fat redistribution, such as developing a
large belly or "man boobs" (gynaecomastia)
a general lack of enthusiasm or energy
difficulty sleeping (insomnia) or increased
tiredness
poor concentration and short-term memory
These symptoms can interfere with everyday
life and happiness, so it's important to find the
underlying cause and work out what can be done
to resolve it.
IS THERE SUCH A THING AS A `MALE
MENOPAUSE'?
The "male menopause" (sometimes called the
"andropause") is an unhelpful term sometimes
used in the media to explain the above symptoms.
This label is misleading because it suggests the
symptoms are the result of a sudden drop in
testosterone in middle age, similar to what occurs
in the female menopause. This isn't true. Although
testosterone levels fall as men age, the decline is
steady less than 2% a year from around the age of
30-40 and this is unlikely to cause any problems
in itself.
A testosterone deficiency that develops later
in life (also known as late-onset hypogonadism)
can sometimes be responsible for these symptoms,
but in many cases the symptoms are nothing to do
with hormones.
PERSONAL OR LIFESTYLE ISSUES
Lifestyle factors or psychological problems are often
responsible for many of the symptoms described
above.
For example, erectile dysfunction, loss of
libido and mood swings may be the result of either:
stress
depression
anxiety
There are also physical causes of erectile dysfunction,
such as changes in the blood vessels, which may
happen alongside any psychological cause.
Psychological problems are typically brought
on by work or relationship issues, divorce, money
problems or worrying about ageing parents.
A "midlife crisis" can also be responsible.
This can happen when men think they've reached
life's halfway stage. Anxieties over what they've
accomplished so far, either in their job or personal
life, can lead to a period of depression.
Other possible causes of the above symptoms
include:
lack of sleep
poor diet
lack of exercise
drinking too much alcohol
smoking
low self-esteem
LATE-ONSET HYPOGONADISM
In some cases, where lifestyle or psychological
problems don't seem to be responsible, the
symptoms of the "male menopause" may be the
result of hypogonadism, where the testes produce
few or no hormones.
Hypogonadism is sometimes present from
birth, which can cause symptoms like delayed
puberty and small testes.
Hypogonadism can also occasionally develop
later in life, particularly in men who are obese
or have type 2 diabetes. This is known as late-
onset hypogonadism and it can cause the "male
menopause" symptoms mentioned above.
However, this is an uncommon and specific medical
condition that isn't a normal part of ageing.
A diagnosis of late-onset hypogonadism
can usually be made based on your symptoms and
the results of blood tests used to measure your
testosterone levels.