Andropause

The word andropause is derived from Greek and means ‘when masculinity ceases’. It is used to describe a condition in men similar to the female Menopause, except that it does not directly end fertility.

In men, the production of the hormone Testosterone gradually decreases from about age 60. This has generally been accepted as a part of a normal ageing process and it is usually without notable impact on their physical condition.

It has been argued by some however, that there can be a significant reduction in the level of ‘free’ testosterone in quite young men – from 35 – 50 years of age – as well as older men and that this can result in quite major physical and mental reactions.

The symptoms which have been associated with andropause are similar to the effects experienced by some women undergoing Menopause and include fatigue, loss of Libido, sexual difficulties, Depression, irritability, aches and pains, sweating and flushing. Predisposing factors such as a history of Vasectomy or Mumps have been suggested as possibly leading to an early testosterone deficiency.

Andropause should not be confused with what has been called the ‘male mid-life crisis’ which can occur around 40 years old. This is essentially an emotional reaction to a re-evaluation of personal circumstances which might have social and physical consequences. For an individual experiencing a mid life crisis, depression can result from a realisation that life is moving on and opportunities have been missed which may not arise again. The andropause is a physical condition though its effects can perhaps lead to similar changes.  With andropause, depression may directly result from the andropause itself and affect the behaviour as a consequence. It is also possible for the two to overlap which can further confuse the situation.

An abnormally low level of ‘free’ testosterone can be detected by blood tests, and testosterone replacement therapy may be considered in such cases. There are concerns about the longer term treatment of relatively young men with testosterone as there are suggestions that it may increase the risk of developing various prostate problems. Some other medical practitioners feel that these risks are unproven and that testosterone replacement therapy can be very beneficial in even borderline cases of testosterone deficiency.

Counselling may be effective in dealing with some of the issues raised during a mid-life crisis or some aspects of change as caused by the andropause. It is worth a try. 

Historically, various research into the effects of low testosterone levels and its treatment has not been well received by the medical profession. Today, because of this, and because the symptoms can be varied and seemingly unconnected, it is argued that andropause has gone largely unrecognised by medical science. It remains one of those conditions which has yet to be fully acknowledged, or explained, or denied.

Your own GP may or may not recognise andropause as a condition which needs to be treated. This presents a problem for the person who firmly believes they are unwell and requires treatment. At this time, the one solution may be to find a GP willing to consider it as a possibility. This may be a partner in the medical practice you already attend, or you may have to make enquiries at another practice, or take advice from support organisations who might be able to suggest a contact for you.

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