As they age, many men worry about what they might expect and whether there is such a thing as the male menopause.
Strictly speaking, and when compared with the changes that happen at the time of the female menopause, there is no such thing as a male menopause.
In women, the menopause is a sign of rapid reduction in female hormone production, which can produce a variety of symptoms, both physical and psychological. As men age, the production of male hormones also declines, but the decline in testosterone is generally regarded as being very gradual — usually less than one per cent a year after the age of about 30.
However, many men in their 40s and 50s do report symptoms such as:
- reduced physical strength;
- a degree of muscle loss;
- mood swings and irritability;
- loss of libido;
- erectile dysfunction;
- changes in sleep patterns;
- reduced energy;
- depressed mood; and
- lack of motivation.
These problems may be the result of ageing or gradually reducing testosterone levels. They may also be caused by other problems, such as an underlying medical problem, medication side effect, lack of exercise or excessive alcohol use.
Having a check-up with your doctor is a good idea if you are experiencing any of these problems. Your doctor can determine the most likely cause and whether treatment is required. In many cases, lifestyle adjustments — such as a healthy diet and regular physical activity — may help.
Men with these problems also need support from family and friends. They may need help to accept a new stage in their lives and to be reminded of what they have achieved, rather than what they haven’t.
Many older men will have testosterone levels similar to those of men in their 30s. Only about one in 200 men under 60 and one in 10 men over 60 have abnormally low testosterone levels.
Fatigue, muscle weakness, low mood and loss of sex drive can indicate low testosterone, but these symptoms can be also caused by other conditions. Your doctor can check your testosterone level if you have these symptoms.
Even if your testosterone level is mildly reduced, the cause may be another condition such as depression or obesity. If so, treating the underlying condition may return testosterone levels to normal.
Testosterone therapy does help men with severe testosterone deficiency, but the evidence isn’t clear regarding whether it helps other men. Bear in mind that testosterone therapy does have potential risks, including enlargement of the prostate, growth of prostate cancer or breast cancer that is already present, breathing problems during sleep and acne.