Andropause or Testosterone Deficiency Syndrome: A Helpful Guide to Male Menopause
Andropause is a syndrome caused by a decrease in testosterone levels in men due to age. Not all men suffer from this disorder, but its symptoms and signs can adversely affect the daily lives of many men. Find out everything you need to know about andropause: What it is, its symptoms, at what age it begins, how to detect if you suffer from andropause, how long it lasts, diagnosis, treatment, tips for coping.
What is Andropause? Definition and concept
Andropause, also called male menopause is a disorder that can occur in men as they age over 50. Andropause is defined as a decrease in the production of testosterone, a male hormone that is produced in the testicles and adrenal glands and performs estrogen-like functions in women. This decline in testosterone involves mood swings and other emotional, sexual, and physiological symptoms that can range from mild to moderate and can negatively affect the daily lives of many men.
Testosterone is a male hormone that, in addition to generating sexual desire, has other important functions: it plays a role in development since it causes changes in puberty, allows maintaining physical and mental energy, maintains muscle mass, regulates the fight-flight response among other functions.
Find out more about andropause in the following video:
At what age does andropause begin?
The highest testosterone levels are in your 20s. From age 30, testosterone levels begin to decrease by about 1% per year and andropause usually begins around age 50.
Not all men experience this drop in testosterone, but at age 70 it is possible that your testosterone levels may be at 50% of what they were in your 20s.
What is premature andropause? Some conditions can cause this drop in testosterone to occur earlier or more abruptly, such as certain medical conditions or poor lifestyle habits. Steroid abuse can also precipitate male menopause.
Testosterone and its relationship with andropause
Testosterone, although it is the male hormone, is not exclusive to them, but both men and women have estrogen (the female hormone) and testosterone in their bodies, only in different proportions.
Before puberty, testosterone levels are low and increase as you mature sexually. Testosterone causes typical puberty changes, such as increased muscle mass, increased body hair, changes in voice and in sexual functioning.
What is testosterone for?
- Maintains libido: Testosterone plays an essential role in maintaining sexual function and desire. This is its most well-known function, but not the only one. If your libido is lower than usual, it may be a sign of low testosterone or other condition. Some medications may decrease your libido. Low testosterone can also lead to problems with maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction). It also influences the decline in sperm levels.
- Regulate mood: If your testosterone levels drop, you may feel depressed. You may feel sadness, emptiness, anxiety, irritability, anger, loss of interest. You may also have difficulty concentrating.
- Sleep regulation: Low levels of testosterone can contribute to sleep problems. It is in charge of regulating sleep patterns, and if it is low, you may suffer from insomnia (problems falling asleep and/or maintaining sleep). CogniFit has a scientifically validated insomnia control program that has been shown to be effective in improving sleep quality and sleep time.
- Contributes to bone density: Testosterone helps you keep your bones strong. With its decline, the bones are less dense and fragile and more likely to develop osteoporosis.
- Regulates body fat: Excess abdominal fat can be both a cause and a consequence of low testosterone levels. Obesity contributes to a decrease in this hormone, but also if your levels go down it is more likely to accumulate more fat in the abdominal area. In addition, an enzyme in your body’s fatty tissue converts testosterone into estrogen, causing male hormone levels to drop even further, resulting in a vicious circle.
How do I know if I have andropause?
What are the symptoms and signs of andropause? Andropause can cause a variety of symptoms and complications in men.
Psychological and psychosexual symptoms of andropause
- Mood changes
- Lack of libido and sexual desire
- Decreased self-confidence
- Problems concentrating
- Decreased motivation
Physiological symptoms of andropause
- Energy loss
- Breast growth
- Erectile dysfunction or erection reduction
- Weight gain
- Ejaculation force and volume reduction
- Bone Deterioration
- Heat sensations
- Reduced strength and muscle mass
- Circulatory problems
Diagnosis and treatment of andropause
How to detect andropause? To determine if your testosterone levels are low, a blood test will make it easy for your doctor to check your testosterone levels.
Unless andropause is causing many difficulties or interfering with your daily life, you can manage symptoms without any treatment, just with a few simple guidelines to improve your lifestyle. One of the biggest obstacles to treatment is talking with your doctor about your symptoms. Many men are ashamed to discuss certain sexual matters.
Hormone replacement therapy may be another treatment option. However, it is a controversial issue because of the large side effects and limited efficacy. If your doctor proposes this treatment, consider the benefits and drawbacks before deciding.
Risks of hormone therapy include an increased risk of developing sleep apnea, contributing to the production of cancer cells, and increasing the risk of heart problems such as heart attack.
Andropause and menopause: Similarities and differences
There is some controversy over the existence of andropause or menopause in men. This may be because there are quite a few differences between male and female menopause.
Male menopause differs from female menopause in several ways. To begin with, not all men experience it, while all women go through menopause. In men, it does not imply a complete cessation of reproductive function, whereas in women it does.
In addition, female menopause sets in quite quickly, while low testosterone can develop over many years.
On the other hand, testosterone levels can vary a lot from individual to individual, so it is difficult to establish how much testosterone is considered low for each person.
Because of these differences, the term “male menopause” is not very accurate and many prefer to refer to this condition as andropause or late hypogonadism.
Sexual intercourse in andropause
One natural way to increase testosterone is with an active sex life. Maintaining healthy sexuality throughout life can help us prevent or mitigate the effects of andropause.
Although our sexual functions deteriorate with aging, such as erection or lubrication in the case of women, there are many other things that can be done in bed. The sexuality that has been “sold” to us is that the ultimate purpose of sexual intercourse is penetration. This makes us miss a lot of things about sexuality.
Caresses, masturbation, games, and non-genital physical contact are also part of our sexuality. Exploring all of this will allow us to have a more complete sexual life and will alleviate the frustration of not being able to practice intercourse as penetration.
As we have said, many of the symptoms of andropause can be mitigated by simple lifestyle changes. Discover here how to strengthen your willpower to create healthy habits.
- Eat a healthy diet: reduce the consumption of meat products and all kinds of processed foods (pre-cooked meals, sausages, etc.). Reduce your consumption of sugar and salt. Find out here 13 superfoods for your brain.
- Get regular physical activity: Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, whether it’s a brisk walk, running, biking or any physical activity you like. This will also improve your mood and help you to have a healthy weight.
- Get enough sleep: Sleeping well is essential for body functions. It helps us to keep our brains in shape, we will improve our mood, our memory, and attention.
- Reduce your stress: Stress and anxiety can worsen andropause symptoms. Find out here how to manage stress. Learning relaxation techniques, breathing, mindfulness meditation can help you fight it.
- Seek help if necessary. Other problems may be influencing your condition. Psychotherapy can be helpful.
- Don’t trust herbal supplements. Herbal supplements have not been shown to be safe or effective for low testosterone age-associated. For example, a study on DHEA supplements has not proven beneficial and may increase the risk of prostate cancer.
- If andropause causes you many sexual problems do not hesitate to contact a therapist specialized in these issues.
This article is originally in Spanish written by Andrea García Cerdán, translated by Alejandra Salazar.
Psicóloga General Sanitaria y sexóloga. Deseosa de mejorar la calidad de vida de las personas mediante la práctica clínica y la comunicación a través de la red.