Menopause in women is very real. The female body stops producing eggs, makes less estrogen and progesterone and eventually menstruation completely stops. And the side effects, like hot flashes, are uncomfortable. But do men experience menopause?
Many older men see their doctors with the same symptoms women experience during menopause. These include sexual dysfunction, weight gain, fatigue and depression. In some men, blood tests reveal low testosterone levels. The term "male menopause" was coined to describe decreasing testosterone levels related to aging. Many doctors also refer to it as andropause.
Male menopause isn’t widely sanctioned in the medical community. A study in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin found weak support for the theory the offending symptoms were caused by lowered hormone levels.
Even the phrase male menopause is controversial, as it’s an inaccurate parallel to female menopause. Unlike female menopause, the so-called male version doesn’t happen to all men nor does it mean the complete shutdown of their reproductive system.
Men do experience a decline testosterone with aging, but this also occurs with some diseases such as diabetes. Older men are known to have reduced testosterone levels. These low levels can result in hair loss, depression, insomnia, sleep disturbances, infertility, hot flashes, higher body fat and other unwanted symptoms.
To diagnose male menopause or andropause, doctors perform physical exams and diagnostic tests to rule out any medical problems that may be contributing to the condition. They also do a series of blood tests to read hormone levels, including a blood testosterone level.
Linking testosterone levels to symptoms and predicting which men will benefit from treatment – such as testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) – can be tricky. There are many conditions leading to symptoms associated with testosterone deficiency. Alcohol abuse, depression, thyroid and other hormonal disorders, liver and kidney disease, heart failure and chronic lung disease can cause similar symptoms. Also testosterone levels fluctuate over the course of the day and vary widely among men of the same age.