Andropause Male Menopause Explained

Do men also experience menopause? In short, yes, male menopause is real. However, it's not technically called menopause, it's called Androgen Deficiency in the Ageing Male – ADAM – and it behaves differently. Another name for male menopause is andropause.

Andropause has been referred to as ‘male menopause' due to the fact that on the surface, it seems like the male equivalent of what women in their 40s+ experience, but the term is slightly misleading because andropause isn't simply caused by a sudden drop of testosterone, nor does it affect every man as part of a natural cycle. As stated by the NHS, although testosterone levels fall as men age, the decline is steady at less than 2% a year from around the age of 30 to 40, and this is unlikely to cause any problems in itself.

So, What is Androgen Deficiency in Ageing Men?

Adropause refers to age-related changes that occur in male hormone levels. Generally, it affects men who are aged 50 and older and is often affiliated with late-onset hypogonadism. Hypogonadism is a medical condition where the male body doesn't produce enough testosterone to sufficiently manage energy levels, sex drive, muscle growth, etc. Hypogonadism is something that a male can either be born with or develops later in life – andropause/'male menopause'.

Common symptoms of Adropause (Hypogonadism) include:

  • decreased energy levels
  • depression or sadness, mood swings, irritability
  • decreased motivation
  • lowered self-confidence
  • difficulty concentrating
  • insomnia or difficulty sleeping and increased fatigue
  • increased body fat percentage
  • reduced muscle mass and reduced ability to exercise
  • development of breasts (gynecomastia)
  • decreased bone density
  • erectile dysfunction
  • decreased sex drive
  • infertility

Some men also experience swollen or tender breasts, a decrease in testicle size, loss of body hair and hot flashes.

What Are the Causes?

There are two different types of Hypogonadism:

Primary – known as primary testicular failure, this type originates from a problem in the testicles.

Secondary - has to do with a problem in the hypothalamus or the pituitary gland. These are the parts of the brain that signal the testicles to produce testosterone.

Hypogonadism (testosterone deficiency) can be triggered by normal ageing. Other factors that can negatively affect your testosterone levels include injury to the testicles, obesity, alcohol abuse, or a sedentary lifestyle. Cases of Hypogonadism are also higher in men who have other medical issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, cancer, lupus, prostate disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Diagnosis and Treatment

The biggest barrier to treating andropause is not seeking medical help. If you're in your mid to late 40s or older and experiencing some of the above-mentioned symptoms, , it's a good idea to visit your GP. Your doctor can ask the appropriate questions and take a blood sample to test your testosterone levels and take it from there. If you're experiencing depression or severe anxiety, your doctor can also prescribe antidepressants and/or therapy. The good thing about visiting your doctor is that if what you're experiencing isn't andropause, they can get to the bottom of whatever else might be causing your symptoms.

In terms of what you can control, often the best treatment is making healthier lifestyle choices, which include:

  • eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight
  • cutting back on alcohol (as this affects your endocrine glands and hormones which are important to male reproductive health)
  • getting regular exercise
  • adopting some mindfulness practices to reduce daily stress (breathing exercises, meditation, yoga nidra etc.)
  • making sure you get enough sleep

Another Component of ‘Male Menopause'

There is another component of male menopause that isn't technically medical. Some people refer to this as a man's ‘midlife crisis'. This has to do with certain life stage triggers such as an ageing and changing body, changes to one's health and physical abilities, the loss of relationships/friendships and loved ones, or work and financial stressors. Naturally, circumstances like this affect men in a number of ways and can even trigger menopause-like symptoms such as low self-esteem, lack of motivation and changes in sexual drive.

If any of these circumstances and feelings resonate with you, then the best thing you can do for yourself (and your loved ones) is to seek professional help. This help will allow you to understand your mental, emotional and physical state more clearly, and will offer you the opportunity to get the right treatment in order to continue living a happy, healthy life.

Even if none of these circumstances and feelings resonate with you, knowledge is power. As mentioned, you may never encounter andropause or symptoms of ‘male menopause' but it's still important to understand – for yourself and for a better understanding of what your male family members, friends and colleagues may encounter.