The truth about low testosterone and 'male menopause'

Recommended by Dr. Michael White, Updated on October 25th, 2018
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By Dr. Cameron Wilson 6 a.m.Jan. 30, 2014

This column is written by experts in the medical field and provides advice on mens and womens health issues.

Male menopause is sometime used to describe the natural decline in testosterone levels among men as they age. However, the term can be misleading, because female menopause is significantly different in comparison. Whereas women experience a dramatic decline in production of the hormone estrogen over a short period of time during female menopause, men undergo a gradual decrease in testosterone over a period of many years. As such, many doctors prefer to use the term andropause, or more accurately, Androgen Decline in the Aging Male (ADAM), to describe age-related low testosterone in men. ADAM is often responsible for changes in sexual function, energy level or mood, which can be subtle and go on unnoticed for years.

Testosterone is the primary male hormone responsible for keeping a mans muscles and bones strong, and maintaining his interest in sex. In the normal developing male, testosterone peaks during early adulthood, and once he reaches age 30, it is common for testosterone levels to slowly decline by approximately one percent a year. While testosterone levels vary greatly among men, older men generally have lower testosterone levels than younger men. In fact, low testosterone affects roughly 39 percent of all men over the age of 45.

A gradual decline in testosterone is a normal part of aging among men, however, a higher-than-normal drop in testosterone levels may be related to certain medical conditions or other various underlying factors, including medication side effects, pituitary or thyroid problems, depression, and excessive alcohol use. Abnormally low levels can cause symptoms that include:

Change in sleep patterns or insomnia

Physical changes such as increased body fat and reduced muscle bulk

Reduced sexual desire, sexual dysfunction or infertility

Emotional changes that can include depression or confusion

Decrease in energy or bone density

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The truth about low testosterone and 'male menopause'

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