FOXSexpert: Not Such a Myth: Male Menopause

He’s feeling hot flashes -- and they have nothing to do with desire. Like a woman, his body is letting him know it’s going through “male menopause.” Far from being a myth, this hotly debated experience really does exist. Yet few people know about the condition more formally known as andropause.

Even fewer people know that, like female menopause, male menopause can affect every part of a man's life, including his sex life. With all men experiencing a decline in their testosterone levels with age, what’s going on when it comes to andropause?

It’s perfectly normal for men to experience a decrease in testosterone beginning around age 30, with your average Joe’s testosterone lessening about 10 percent every decade. While these hormonal changes occur over years, by around age 70, a male’s testosterone level could be at half the level he had in his late teens/early 20s.

As if this weren’t enough, for an estimated 25 million American males, ages 40-55, it involves a whole lot more.

So what’s going on? As a man’s testosterone declines, his levels of sex-hormone-binding-globulin (SHBG) increase. This “traps” a great deal of the remaining testosterone, making it inaccessible to his body’s cells. With both of these experiences, an estimated 20-30 percent of men experience the dramatic change of andropause, typically by their 50s.

Hence andropause, also known as testosterone deficiency, androgen deficiency of the aging male, and late-onset hypogonadism, often makes a difficult time in a man’s life even harder. With testosterone impacting almost every bodily process, andropause can impact his feelings, health, and mood.

When it comes to his sexual functioning, changes include:

  • Low libido;
  • Difficulty with erectile function, for example, weaker erections;
  • Difficulty becoming aroused;
  • Fewer spontaneous erections, for example, during sleep;
  • Smaller testicles;
  • Infertility;
  • Breast enlargement or swollen, tender breasts (gynecomastia).

Add to this the lethargy, increased irritability, memory problems, depression, bone and muscle mass loss, less beard growth, sleep disturbances, hair loss, and/or increased fat a male can experience, and he can feel like a mess.

Ultimately, he feels less motivated and confident when it comes to sex. This, in itself, can increase experiences like decreased energy levels and depression. In some cases, a man might plummet into what’s been coined his “midlife crisis.”

During this time, everything about him is affected – the hormonal, psychological, spiritual, interpersonal, social, and sexual. It’s no wonder that divorce after 20-30 years of marriage actually appears to be connected with andropause, with Brazil reporting such in the International Encyclopedia of Sexuality.

Whether you suspect andropause or are experiencing any symptoms, get examined by your physician, and ask for a blood test to check your hormone levels. Even if you don’t have andropause, another medical condition, like thyroid problems could be affecting your health and require treatment.

At the same time, make sure that your doctor isn’t treating you for the symptoms of a medical condition you may not have, for example, Viagra for erectile dysfunction, and is treating andropause if it’s the culprit. Despite the first andropause study having been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association back in the 1940s, only recently has the medical community in the U.S. started to take it seriously.

If you do have low testosterone levels, your situation may possibly be helped with testosterone replacement therapy. Just be sure to weigh the costs versus benefits with your doctor, especially in light of your age.

While you can’t treat low testosterone on your own, be sure to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to get psychological help if you’re feeling down. Equally important, nurture your sexual relationship in ways that aren’t reliant upon your sexual functioning or performance. After all, there’s a lot more to your sexuality – and to expressing it – than what testosterone should determine.