by Kimberly Allen, RN
Some experts believe that women are not the only ones to experience menopause. Many report that men complain of experiencing the same symptoms seen in perimenopause and menopause. However, the question as to whether or not men go through a well defined period of hormonal change known as menopause continues to be a matter of debate in the medical community. While some experts feel that the change in testosterone levels in males is a process similar to that of the change in estrogen and progesterone levels in females others feel that is an exaggeration. They point out there are significant differences between the two that make them very different.
Hormone changes are a part of the aging process, however, in men the change isn’t as dramatic as it is in women. In men, the sex hormone, testosterone, decreases at a much slower rate over a longer period of time. The most significant difference between male “man-pause” and the menopause women experience is that while the ovaries cease to be able to produce the female sex hormones the testes are able to continue producing testosterone, they just produce less. After the age of 30 the production of testosterone decreases by approximately 1% a year. Because the men’s testes continue to produce testosterone, even though it’s less, they are still able to reproduce. In fact most healthy men are able to produce sperm as late as in their 80’s or longer. Approximately 30% of men will have significantly decreased levels of testosterone or “man-opause” in their 50’s. There are also approximately 5 million men in the US that do not produce sufficient testosterone which usually leads to early “man-opause”.
As in women, in men there are also certain unrelated health issues that can interfere with the production of the sex hormones like diabetes and hypertension. there are also certain genetic disorders that can cause impaired testosterone production including Klienfelter’s and Wilson-Turner syndrome. There are also certain workplaces like the pharmaceutical industry, on farms that use pesticides, and near incinerators as well as plastic factories that can put men at a higher risk of developing early “man-opause”.
While many men tolerate decreased levels of testosterone without any symptoms others tend to experience a variety of symptoms including reduced sexual desire or libido and erectile dysfunction. Some also experience symptoms similar to to some of the symptoms women experience during perimenopause like insomnia, increased weakness and fatigue as well as depression and difficulty concentrating. Come me also experience physical changes like reduced muscle and increased body fat as well as reduced bone density similar to the physical changes in women. The thing that is important to remember is that many of these symptoms are part of the normal aging process while others can be the result of other underlying conditions. They can also be the side effects of certain medications.
In order to determine if you are suffering from “man-opause” in addition to a physical exam and a complete history of your symptoms your Dr may also order other diagnostic tests that can rule out any medical problems or other issues that may be the cause of your symptoms as well as check your testosterone levels.
Treatment for “man-opause” usually involves hormone replacement therapy though there is a great deal of disagreement about it’s value. as with women HRT increases your risk for certain cancers as well as other problems. With prescriptions for testosterone on the rise in 2010 the Endocrine Society updated its guidelines for HRT in men. These guidelines state that testosterone therapy should only be used for men “with definite and reproducably low serum testosterone concentrations, below 200 ng/dl, who have symptoms of androgen insufficiency”.
As with any illness and/or therapy your Dr will discuss the pros and cons of treatment with you, but it’s still important to research before your Dr visit so you can be prepared with questions and actively participate in the discussion.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.