Male Menopause

Male Menopause
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BY MYRA FAYE TURNER

I was one of the lucky ones. Except for a few hot flashes here and there, I practically breezed through menopause. Maybe having a baby late in life speeded up the process. At least that’s what someone told me. I don’t know. My son Tyler was born when I was 36 and by the time I was 45, I had gone through “the change of life”.

Women have been taught to dread this transition almost since the moment we get our first period. As we get older, we learn the symptoms and explore our treatment options. Then we wait. Most men have a vague idea about menopause. They know something’s going on but may not know all the particulars. Most learn about hot flashes and mood swings the hard way. Bless their hearts, they learn to smile and offer support (and chocolate or a personal mini fan) when needed.

Some men experience menopausal symptoms firsthand. As men age, many have similar hormonal changes. A sort of “manopause” if you will. Most doctors agree that older males don’t experience a well-defined period of transition as women do when going through perimenopause and menopause. They also agree that some men will experience hormonal changes, specifically a drop in testosterone. These changes can lead to uncomfortable or even nuisance symptoms. Doctors prefer the term androgen decline, andropause or simply low testosterone.

Testosterone levels usually starts dropping after the age of 30. Although testosterone levels drop as males age, the decrease may never reach levels low enough to cause symptoms. With most women, hormonal changes are very noticeable. The drop usually happens quickly, which accounts for the menacing symptoms.

Men, on the other hand, experience “the change” over a longer period. The decrease can be so subtle that men are asymptomatic. As reported by the Mayo Clinic: “In women, ovulation ends and hormone production plummets during a relatively short period of time. In men, hormone production and testosterone bioavailability decline over a period of many years and the consequences aren’t necessarily clear.”

As I mentioned earlier, I experienced mild symptoms. There are other women like myself, but I think we are the exception rather than the rule. For men, in some ways it’s the opposite. How can a man tell if he’s experiencing male menopause? Let’s look at some of the symptoms.

Symptoms

In addition to low testosterone levels, males may experience the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Changes in sleep patterns (like sleeping too much) or sleep disturbances (like insomnia)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Joint pain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble concentrating
  • A low sex drive/decreased libido
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low sperm count
  • Gynecomastia (swollen or tender breasts)
  • Abdominal fat

Of course, doctors caution these symptoms may be caused by other diseases, including diabetes, so it’s best to seek professional guidance to rule out other medical issues. According to the Mayo Clinic, side effects of certain types of medication, thyroid problems, depression, excessive alcohol use, and even sleep apnea, can cause similar symptoms men with low testosterone exhibit. It’s best to always check with your physician before self-diagnosing. Which brings me to the next point.

Diagnosis

If manopause is suspected, a trip to the doctor for verification will usually involve a thorough medical examination. The doctor will order blood work to confirm testosterone levels and to rule out any medical issues that may cause the same symptoms. Once a diagnosis is made, a treatment plan is the next step. 

Treatment

Because I practically ran through menopause, I never gave a second thought to hormone replacement therapy. For males with low testosterone levels and problematic symptoms, help is available via testosterone replacement therapy. Treatment is usually in the form of gels, shots or patches. Medical intervention is usually not recommended unless the symptoms are severe or menacing. For more severe symptoms, like depression, therapy and/or medication may be necessary.

Some men have reported that after treatment, symptoms improved including increased sexual drive, more energy, and a lessening of depressive moods. However, the long-term side effects and risks aren’t known at this time so proceed with caution.

Doctors may also recommend lifestyles changes to alleviate the symptoms of manopause. These suggestions include changes in diet or starting an exercise regimen.

If you or someone you love experience symptoms that could be related to male menopause, consult a healthcare professional. Don’t rely on self-treatment remedies you find online or purchase any type of medication touted as a cure. A quick internet search brought up a ton of pills you can order online, all claiming to be natural cures (and medically sound). But you definitely don’t want to take a chance with your health. Leave the diagnosis and treatment to the medical professionals.

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