It is not as widely known, but men suffer from symptoms similar to those of menopause due to a decrease in hormonal levels as they age. Although the word “andropause” is not currently recognized by the World Health Organization, it is thought that about five million American men do not produce adequate testosterone, setting them up for experiencing irritability, anxiety, hot flashes, mood swings, depression, body aches, and lack of libido.
After the age of 30, a man’s testosterone level declines 10% every decade, or 1% per year and proponents claim that by their mid-50’s, about 30% of men experience andropause. Men who work in the pharmaceutical industry, plastics factories, near incinerators, and on farms that use pesticides are high-risk for early andropause, as well as those with diabetes, hypertension, and genetic disorders that produce hypogonadism, which is a deficiency state in which testosterone goes below the normal range, even for an aging male.
The main difference between andropause and menopause is the speed at which the hormonal levels drop, causing the symptoms to be more or less noticeable. While andropause does not cause a man’s reproductive system to stop working altogether, many experience bouts of impotence. Women, however, are no longer fertile when they reach menopause.
Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine recommend testosterone therapy for men who experience symptoms of andropause because of reduced testosterone levels. This therapy allows men to maintain sex characteristics, which can improve their sexual function and can also increase a sense of well being, muscle mass and strength, and bone density in men.
While changes in hormonal levels are a normal part of the aging process in both men and women, it can cause some pretty uncomfortable symptoms. Treatment, like Hormone Replacement Therapy (or HRT), can offer relief from these symptoms, making life for the middle-aged a little more enjoyable.