Andropause

Andropause, also sometimes called male menopause, is an acquired type of hypogonadism caused by the gradual decline of testosterone levels as a result of normal aging. Hormone levels vary throughout life in men and in women and levels of certain hormones, including sex hormones (e.g., testosterone, estrogen, progesterone), dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), human growth hormone (HGH), and melatonin, decline naturally with age.

In women, menopause usually occurs around the age of 50, when the ovaries stop producing female sex hormones (e.g., estrogen, progesterone) and menstrual cycles end. In men, production of the male sex hormone testosterone declines gradually beginning about age 30 and may reach low levels by 40–55 years of age.

In addition, levels of a chemical called sex-binding hormone globulin (SHBG) increase, further reducing the amount of bioavailable testosterone in the body. Bioavailable testosterone, which is not bound in the body by this chemical, maintains energy levels, healthy mood, fertility, and libido (sex drive). Some studies have shown that testosterone levels in men decrease up to 40% by the age of 70.

Low testosterone levels associated with andropause can cause a number of symptoms, including fatigue, diminished libido (sex drive), reduced energy levels, weakness, and psychological symptoms, such as mood swings, irritability, and depression. The condition also may increase the risk for heart disease (atherosclerosis) and bone loss (osteoporosis).

Older men who experience andropause symptoms should contact a physician for proper diagnosis and treatment. It is important to rule out conditions not related to normal aging, such as infection or tumors. Andropause diagnosis involves serum and blood tests. In some cases, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is used to treat the condition, although this treatment carries some risks and is somewhat controversial.

Lifestyle changes also may be helpful to reduce symptoms and risks associated with andropause. Men with low testosterone levels should eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, get adequate amounts of sleep, exercise regularly (Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.), reduce stress, and limit alcohol intake, and should not use tobacco products.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 29 Sep 2009

Last Modified: 18 Nov 2011