Sex may permeate our popular culture, but conversations about it are still associated with stigma and shame in Indian households. As a result, most people dealing with sexual health issues or trying to find information about sex often resort to unverified online sources or follow the unscientific advice of their friends.
To address the widespread misinformation about sex, News18.com publishes this weekly sex column entitled “Let’s Talk Sex.” With this column, we hope to spark conversations about sex and tackle sexual health issues with scientific insight and nuance.
The column is written by sexologist Prof (Dr) Saransh Jain. In today’s column, Dr. Jain explains about Andropause, its symptoms, causes and treatments.
Almost everyone is familiar with the fact that when women reach middle age, their bodies start going through a process known as menopause. However, did you know that a percentage of men go through a similar development? This process, known as andropause, clearly has some obvious differences from menopause, but there are also some similarities in symptoms.
Andropause reduces your sex drive and makes you weak and moody. It involves a drop in testosterone production in men 50 years of age or older. In men, testosterone is a hormone produced in the testicles. It does more than just fuel your sex drive. It also creates changes during puberty, fuels your mental and physical energy, maintains your muscle mass, regulates your fight-or-flight response, and regulates other important evolutionary features.
Andropause differs from menopause in several ways. For starters, not all men experience it. Second, it doesn’t involve a complete shutdown of your reproductive organs. However, sexual complications can arise as a result of your lowered hormone levels.
Symptoms of Andropause
Andropause can cause physical, sexual and psychological problems. They usually worsen as you get older. They can be:
• Erectile Dysfunction
• Loss of libido or sexual drive
• Depression or sadness
• Low energy
• Difficulty concentrating
• Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
• Decreased muscle mass and feelings of physical weakness
• Gynecomastia or breast development
You may also experience swollen or tender breasts, decreased testicle size, loss of body hair, or hot flashes. Low levels of testosterone associated with andropause have also been linked to osteoporosis. This is a condition where your bones become weak and brittle. These are rare symptoms. They usually affect men at the same age as women entering menopause.
Causes of Andropause
While menopause in women begins relatively quickly as the production of hormones estrogen and progesterone stops, there is a more gradual shift in men. Beginning in the mid-30s, men lose about 1.6 percent of testosterone per year, which is usually a natural, hassle-free process. However, symptoms can develop if you don’t have enough.
Some experience late-onset hypogonadism (LOH), which is characterized by very low levels of testosterone in older men due to natural decline of that hormone. In many cases, however, the symptoms of andropause can be attributed to other factors and not necessarily to a drop in testosterone levels. This is the cause of controversy surrounding the condition.
How Is Andropause Diagnosed?
If you have experienced these symptoms and are over 35, it is certainly possible that you are going through andropause. It is important to seek medical attention. Diagnosis begins with a careful evaluation of your health status, as well as a physical evaluation; a mental health evaluation may also be requested. This includes:
• Assessment of medications you are taking or treatments you are undergoing
• Tests for signs of metabolic syndrome (cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar)
• Physical examination of testicles, hair growth or gynecomastia
• Check a family history of low testosterone
• Checking weight status and body mass index (BMI)
Blood tests can help determine if you have low testosterone and assess any other conditions that could be causing the problem. Common tests include:
• Testosterone Level Test
• Luteinizing protein
• Prolactin Testing
• Blood hemoglobin (Hgb)
How Is Andropause Treated?
Unless andropause is causing you severe hardship or interfering with your life, you will likely get your symptoms under control without treatment. The biggest hurdle in treating andropause may be talking to your doctor about your symptoms, if you’re too shy or intimidated by such topics. The most common type of treatment for andropause symptoms is making healthier lifestyle choices. For example, your doctor may advise you to:
• Eat healthy
• Get regular exercise
• Get enough sleep
• Reduce stress
These lifestyle habits can benefit all men. After adopting these habits, men experiencing symptoms of andropause can see a dramatic change in their overall health. If you are experiencing depression, your doctor may prescribe antidepressants, therapy, and lifestyle changes.
Hormone replacement therapy is another treatment option. However, it is very controversial. Like performance-enhancing steroids, synthetic testosterone can have harmful side effects. For example, if you have prostate cancer, it can cause your cancer cells to grow. If your doctor suggests hormone replacement therapy, weigh all the positives and negatives before making a decision.
It is normal for your testosterone level to drop as you age. For many men, symptoms are manageable even without treatment. If you are lacking in symptoms, talk to your doctor.
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