Men Have Menopause, Too
June is the month in which we celebrate fathers, but you don’t have to be a father to want to be a healthier and more vital male. After decades of research into female menopause and hormone replacement therapy, men have started receiving attention about their own age-related hormonal decline, called male andropause. The Endocrine Society defines this male hypogonadism as a clinical condition that results from the inability to produce sufficient levels of testosterone and sperm.
According to the National Institute on Aging’s ongoing Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging, 19 percent of men over the age of 60 have been found to have low testosterone levels, while another study found the overall prevalence to be 39 percent in males 45 years old or more. In addition to aging, andropause can be caused by a number of factors, including trauma, infection, tumors, genetic factors, chemotherapy, radiation, medications, illness and alcohol abuse.
Ever wonder why many middle-aged men walk around with a “beer belly?” Fatty deposits around the midsection that do not respond to exercise and diet are one of the symptoms of lowered testosterone. Other symptoms attributed to andropause can include reduced libido; erectile dysfunction, loss of muscle mass and strength; low bone mass; decreased energy and vitality; and a depressed mood.
Some studies link the combined loss of muscle mass and strength, along with increased fatty deposits, with degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and diabetes. While it is not clear whether low testosterone is the cause or the result of these conditions, treating low testosterone may be helpful. A physician will typically make the diagnosis of andropause when there is a combination of consistent symptoms and low testosterone levels.
While many treatments are available for the individual symptoms, some doctors are now treating andropause similarly to menopause–with hormone replacement therapy. This therapy can be administered through intramuscular injections; transdermal gels and patches; oral patches; subcutaneous pellets and orally administered tablets and capsules.
Once normal hormone levels have been restored, libido, sexual function, energy and mood generally improve early in the course of treatment. Restoration of muscle mass and decrease in fat deposits is a more gradual process, and usually takes at least six months to show measurable results.
Hormone replacement therapy is a relatively new form of treatment for andropause, and potential risks may be present in some patients, depending upon pre-existing medical conditions. Your doctor should review your history before starting treatments, and perform baseline tests to monitor prostate health, as well as measure a baseline bone density. Once treatments begin, expect to have your testosterone levels checked after three months and then annually.
New discoveries in medicine are always welcome, but sometimes they require a change in our perceptions about how the body works. In the case of andropause, we should now being thinking about men in that same light as we have been thinking of women; making hormone issues a universal concern.
Dr. Josie Tenore is the owner of Fresh Skin, 806 Central Ave., Highland Park, which specializes in hormone replacement therapies for men and women and aesthetic medicine. For more information, call 847-681-8821 or visit MyFreshSkin.com.