Manopause: Is it for real?
Do guys go through it too? We look at so-called ‘male menopause’ — and the symptoms and treatment options for age-related male hormonal changes
Much has been written about the challenges many women face during menopause. Brought on by a dramatic, age-related drop in the production of reproductive hormones (estrogen and progesterone), many women endure unpleasant symptoms such as hot flushes, irritability, forgetfulness and fatigue.
But women may not be entirely alone. Men also experience hormonal changes brought on by aging.
Mainly, for males, this consists of a decrease in testosterone over time. According to The Mayo Clinic, testosterone levels vary greatly among men, but in general, older men tend to have significantly lower levels. It is believed testosterone gradually declines throughout adulthood, at an average rate of about 1 per cent a year after age 30. By about age 70, the decrease in a man’s testosterone level can be as much as 50 per cent.
Not the same for men and women
What most health professionals seem to agree on, however, is that female menopause and so-called male menopause are completely different. Because of the gradual nature of sex hormone changes in men, the symptoms are generally far subtler than for women. Symptoms of male menopause — such as changes in sexual function, mood or energy level — can go unnoticed for years. And some men experience no symptoms at all.
Signs of testosterone deficiency
So what are the signs of testosterone deficiency? For some men, lower than normal testosterone levels can contribute to:
Difficulties or changes in sexual performance. These can include erectile dysfunction, reduced sexual desire and infertility.
Sleep problems. Low testosterone can lead to sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or increased sleepiness.
Physical changes. These could include increased body fat as well as a loss in bone density, muscle bulk, strength and endurance. Some men also experience swollen or tender breasts, a loss of body hair, and in rare occasions, hot flushes.
Emotional changes. Low testosterone levels can also lead to feelings of sadness, depression, and a lack of motivation or self-confidence. It can also negatively affect concentration and memory.
Experts note, however, that some of these symptoms are a normal part of aging, or can be caused by other factors including medication side effects, thyroid problems, depression and excessive alcohol use. A blood test is the only way to diagnose low levels of testosterone.