Andropause: Should I be worried?

Andropause: Should I be worried?

Young, sad man deep in thought, troubled by bad newsAfter age 30, men begin to produce decreased levels of androgen, or the hormones that control the development and maintenance of male sex organs and secondary sex characteristics, such as facial hair, increased muscle mass, and low percentage of body fat. This aging is often compared to menopause in women and is commonly referred to as “andropause.” Some scientists, however, more appropriately use the term “androgen decline in the aging male,” or ADAM.1

Unlike menopause, ADAM is a slowly progressive condition, and it is somewhat difficult to diagnose because there is disagreement about what the normal level of testosterone is for any given patient. Additionally, many symptoms may indicate the presence of other disorders or diseases, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, or medications.2 Still, researchers have noticed links between low androgen levels and abnormal health.3

Testosterone’s Role

The most well-known androgen is testosterone, and when it is on the decline, there are several adverse health effects.2

Physiological changes include:

  • diminished libido, sexual activity, and erections
  • decreased lean body mass and increased fat
  • reduced muscle strength
  • reduced energy
  • osteoporosis
  • lower quality of sleep

Psychological and cognitive changes include:

  • mood changes and depression
  • reduced cognitive function
  • reduced sense of well-being

Testosterone Therapy

Although there have been no long-term studies conducted to determine prolonged safety, several clinical studies have shown supplemental testosterone, or testosterone replacement therapy, to be beneficial and safe, alleviating symptoms and sometimes even reversing them.2 However, testosterone supplementation is not without its own concerns4.

If you are experiencing any of these physiological, psychological, or cognitive symptoms, you may want to talk to your doctor about testosterone therapy. If a blood test confirms a low testosterone level, you can choose one of a number of testosterone treatments, depending on individual benefits, side effects, and cost. Treatments include oral tablets, injections, subcutaneous implants, skin patches, or topical gels.5

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that testosterone therapy is not advised for men who have or have had prostate cancer or breast cancer. Associations between testosterone therapy and prostate health are being studied, so it is important to talk with your doctor about the potential benefits and risks of treatment.6

References

  1. Morales, A., Heaton, J., & Carson, C. (2000). Andropause: A misnomer for a true clinical entity. The Journal of Urology163(3), 705–712. Retrieved from http://www.jurology.com/article/S0022-5347(05)67788-9/abstract
  2. Brawer, M. (2004). Testosterone replacement in men with andropause: An overview. Reviews in Urology, 6(Suppl. 6), S9–S15. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1472881/
  3. Testosterone and the aging male – Balancing risks and benefits http://bit.ly/1p0X1B7
  4. WebMD (n.d.). Low testosterone and your health. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/men/what-low-testosterone-can-mean-your-health
  5. WebMD (n.d.). Erectile dysfunction: Testosterone replacement therapy. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/erectile-dysfunction/guide/testosterone-replacement-therapy
  6. WebMD (n.d.). Low testosterone: How do you know when levels are too low? Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/men/features/low-testosterone-explained-how-do-you-know-when-levels-are-too-low
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