While some in the medical community scoff at the idea of “male menopause”, it is an established fact that many men experience a condition very similar to menopause during middle age. Symptoms of this condition have been recorded since the mid-1940s and include things like depression, impaired memory, insomnia, hot flashes and a loss of libido. One thing that all the symptomatic men had in common was a reduced level of the male hormone testosterone. Since this often happens naturally with age, that is where the controversy begins because many consider this a natural state and not necessary to actually treat.
However, some men seem to experience greater and more intense symptoms than others which is where andropause treatment can be helpful to reduce the severity of some of these symptoms. One reason that some in the medical community won’t recognize andropause as a problem is because men continue to produce testosterone all their lives while women in menopause completely stop producing estrogen. In menopause, though, women usually experience menopausal symptoms long before the body shuts down the estrogen production because the production slows. Since the symptoms are the same as those caused with the slowing of testosterone production, it stands to reason that treating men for andropause could improve their quality of life just as menopause treatments do for women.
It doesn’t help that not all men experience a reduction in hormone production. Most do, but there are men that continue to produce the androgen hormones at pretty much normal levels. Then each man has different levels of production so the phenomenon of andropause can vary widely from one to another. To make it even more difficult to know whether andropause treatment is needed or appropriate, each man experiences a different number and level of symptoms. One man might only experience loss of libido and hot flashes while another man might also have depression, fatigue and decrease in bone density.
Andropause treatment is mainly accomplished by testosterone replacement therapy. This can be done in a number of ways including orally, injectables and transdermal patches but the majority of men will be given the transdermal patches. This method seems to act the most naturally as testosterone levels do vary throughout the day, with the majority of production being in the morning and then tapering off through the day. Since this is exactly how transdermal medications enter the bloodstream, it is the choice of most medical professionals.
The benefits of andropause treatment include improvement in sexual function both with an increased libido as well as the mechanical aspects. Men also experience increased bone density and more strength, as well as a decrease in body fat storage. Research has shown that the hormone replacement therapy likely has a good effect on the male cardiovascular system as a whole because it appears to be connected to blood clotting parameters, healthy blood vessels and prevention of atherosclerosis.
There are some risks associated with andropause treatment that involves hormone replacement therapy that people should be aware of before beginning treatment. Some men retain fluid during therapy, particularly when first starting treatment, and this can worsen conditions such as hypertension or congestive heart failure. Orally taken testosterone has been shown to cause liver problems but it remains unknown whether other forms of the hormone can do the same. Men with a history of certain types of cancer are not good candidates for this type of andropause treatment as the testosterone can make the cancers grow faster.
While the medical community may be slow to reach a consensus on the issue of male menopause, it is clear that there are some men who benefit from andropause therapy. If you or a loved one are experiencing some of the symptoms mentioned and are over 35 years old, you should discuss the situation with your doctor to see if testosterone replacement therapy could help.
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