Andropause is a condition that is associated with the decrease in the male hormone testosterone. As men grow older not only do their bodies produce less testosterone but the levels of another hormone called sex binding hormone globulin (SHBG), which pulls usable testosterone from the blood, begins to increase. Testosterone that is not bound to the SHBG hormone is called bioavailable testosterone, meaning that it is available for the body to use.
Men who experience symptoms associated with andropause have lowered amounts of bioavailable testosterone in their blood. Therefore tissues in the body that are stimulated by testosterone are now receiving a lower amount of it. This may cause various physical changes to the male. Also, possible mental changes, fatigue and mood swings may occur.
It is the bioavailable testosterone that promotes strength in muscles and maintains or increases muscle mass, libido and sexual performance. It also improves the quality of sleep a man has, increases mental and physical energy and promotes improvements in mood and the sense of well-being.
When Does Andropause Occur?
Andropause starts when levels of testosterone fall (after the age of 30 levels decrease by 10% every decade). The production of sperm gradually lowers and in many men there are physical and psychological symptoms. This is a natural aging process for men. According to many medical experts, approximately 30% of men in their fifties will experience symptoms of andropause.
Testosterone is also important in synthesizing proteins. It affects many metabolic activities such as the production of blood cells in the bone marrow, formation of bone, lipid and carbohydrate metabolism and growth of the prostate gland.
Is Andropause Male Menopause?
The first study on andropause was published in the Journal of American Medical Association in the mid 1940’s. It has only been in recent years that the American medical community has taken notice of this health issue for men according to Dr. Adrian Dobs, an endocrinologist and professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has links to information on andropause but unfortunately Health Canada offers no help for men seeking information on this topic.
Symptoms may vary from person to person. Common symptoms of men experiencing menopause include:
- low sex drive
- difficulties getting erections or erections that are not as strong as usual
- decreased energy levels
- irritability and mood swings
- loss of muscle mass
- loss of strength
- increased body fat
- hot flashes
Complications associated with andropause may include an increased risk of cardiovascular problems and osteoporosis.
Replacing testosterone in the blood is the most common treatment for men. This provides relief from the symptoms and helps improve the quality of life in many cases.
Testosterone is available in a variety of different preparations that include skin patches, gels and injections. Your doctor will help determine which is best for you.
It is important to know that testosterone should not be taken by any man with prostate or breast cancer. If you have heart disease or are taking medications such as blood thinners, or have an enlarged prostate, liver or kidney disease, your doctor may decide that testosterone therapy is not right for you.