How Andropause Affects Men

by Dr. Jonathan D'Souza

Hormonal imbalance is a natural part of aging, but while it is normally associated with women, the fact is that men too experience a change in their hormones over time.

Male menopause, or andropause, often goes undetected in men, especially because they miss the early signs. And unlike women who experience a rapid drop in hormonal levels with menopause, the testosterone levels in men decrease at the rate of one percent a year post the age of 30. This gradual decline is the reason why the signs of male menopause often go unnoticed.

The biggest difference between male menopause and female menopause is that in andropause testosterone production doesn’t stop completely. In women, menopause totally stops the production of the hormone estrogen.

Symptoms of Male Menopause (Andropause)

1. Decreased Libido
A dip in testosterone levels can reduce sexual desire, cause erectile dysfunction (inability to sustain an erection) and decrease sperm production (infertility). Besides this, the size of the testes may also become smaller. A research done in men experiencing andropause found that about 91 percent of the subjects experience decreased libido.[1]

2. Depression
Testosterone helps regulate the mood of an individual and with low testosterone levels a man can easily be depressed. A research done on depressed males found that the lower a man’s testosterone levels, the more severe he experiences depression.[2]

3. Fatigue
Energy levels in the body are regulated by hormones including testosterone. Men going through andropause often feel exhausted and get tired easily. For example, they could go to sleep immediately after a meal.

4. Insomnia
Decreased levels of testosterone can cause a person to have disturbed sleep, no sleep at all (insomnia) or even excessive sleepiness. This is because the hormone testosterone plays a vital role in the entire body’s metabolic functions.

5. Osteoporosis
Bone density is regulated by the hormone testosterone. In andropause, the bones tend to become more fragile and puts men at an increased risk of osteoporosis.

6. Physical Changes
As testosterone also slows the accumulation of abdominal fat, a warning sign of decreasing testosterone levels can be your expanding waistline. When abdominal fat increases, an enzyme in the fat tissues converts testosterone to estrogen, further lowering testosterone levels. It’s a vicious cycle, which is followed by a decrease in muscle mass, loss of body hair and tender or swollen breasts (gynecomastia).

Image Source: Shutterstock

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References:
1. Wu CY, Yu TJ, Chen MJ. Age related testosterone level changes and male andropause syndrome. Chang Gung Med J. 2000 Jun;23(6):348-53. PubMed PMID:10958037.

2. Yesavage JA, Davidson J, Widrow L, Berger PA. Plasma testosterone levels, depression, sexuality, and age. Biol Psychiatry. 1985 Feb;20(2):222-5. PubMed PMID: 3971004.

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