Understanding male menopause and mental health- Part 2

You’ve probably heard of the menopause in women, but did you know men go through a similar hormonal change as they age? The male menopause, or andropause, is often triggered when men reach their 40s.

In fact, as many as 30% of men can expect some sort of physical change to their bodies when they reach this age. But with such little exposure to information, this sudden shift in mental attitude and physical ability can come as a real shock.

In Part 2 of this guide, we’ll discuss changes to your body caused by male menopause.

Changes which occur in your body

While not as drastic as what a woman will experience, there is a noticeable change to a man’s body when he goes through male menopause. Some of the most common changes you can expect to experience are things like:

  1. Increased body fat: The male menopause can cause a man to put on a few extra pounds, despite not eating more than they normally would.
  2. Breast tissue growth: Men may experience some form of gynaecomastia (the enlargement of male breasts).
  3. Erectile dysfunction: While the relationship between erectile dysfunction and testosterone is still not fully understood, most medical professionals agree it is one of many reasons why someone might struggle to maintain an erection.
  4. Lowered bone density: This is admittedly not something you’ll be able to pick up on in day-to-day life. It’s only after a short while that you’ll notice any issues. These will include aches and pains after minimal amounts of exercise or daily routines. You might also find that breaks happen more easily.
  5. Loss of muscle mass: Someone going through the male menopause might notice their body is becoming less muscular, or that they’re finding it hard to put more muscle on. If a person is sticking to their usual workout routine (or general lifestyle), but find themselves losing muscle mass, it might be worth consulting a doctor about the cause.

You’ve probably already spotted that a lot of these changes will naturally occur in men as they age. That’s why you might want to look for other symptoms to know if you’re experiencing the full menopause.

What are the symptoms?

Some of the changes your body experiences will be good signs something is up. But they’re not the only way to detect if something isn’t quite right with your testosterone levels.

Here are some other telltale signs which might indicate something has changed in your hormone levels:

  1. Low energy: If you’ve felt more lethargic in recent weeks it could be due to a dip in testosterone levels. You might find that even trivial tasks, like washing or cleaning the house, suddenly seem like too much effort to carry out.
  2. Difficulty concentrating: A lack of focus can also be a sign that something might be up. If following the thread of a conversation begins to feel like a struggle, testosterone levels in your body might have dropped below where they should be.
  3. Lowered libido: A lack of sex drive is often synonymous with male menopause. If you no longer feel the desire to be intimate with your partner, it could be a sign that there’s less testosterone in your system.
  4. Insomnia: Sleep patterns are also controlled by the amount of this all-important hormone. As a result, insomnia is common amongst men going through this phase of their life.
  5. Mood swings: Noticed yourself becoming more easily irritated or sad of late? Extreme fluctuations in hormone levels can have a huge impact on our general mood and attitude. It’s for this reason that people on steroids are often stereotyped as being angry and volatile.

If you spot anything that doesn’t quite seem right with your body, it might be time to turn to a medical professional.

It’s important to remember that experiencing one of the symptoms does not necessarily mean you’re going through the male menopause. Seek help when all, or most, start to feel like a regular occurrence.

Diagnosing male menopause

Owing to the fact male menopause shares a lot of symptoms with the natural signs of ageing, most doctors are not quick to diagnose the condition. As such, you’ll probably have to carry out blood tests to make sure the drop off in hormone levels is above the average for a man in his later years. A doctor will want to rule out all other possibilities before diagnosing a patient as experiencing andropause.

Blood tests which a doctor might give you include:

  1. Testosterone level: These will be conducted before noon, as everyone’s testosterone levels are naturally lower in the evening. There’ll often be two separate tests conducted to find out if there has been a sudden dip in levels. The second test will also prove the first is not an anomaly.
  2. Luteinizing hormone: This lesser known hormone can have a huge impact on the T-levels in your body. High amounts indicate you’re having problems producing testosterone from your testicles, low amounts indicate you’re having problems with your pituitary gland.
  3. Blood prolactin: Again, high levels of this might indicate a problem with the pituitary gland. It might also be a sign of tumours growing.
  4. Follicle stimulating hormone: This test also assesses your pituitary gland function, and is important for sperm production and fertility. There might also be a semen sample taken.
  5. Blood haematocrit and haemoglobin: As we’ve seen, some doctors are hesitant to diagnose andropause or male menopause. They’ll first want to ensure you are safe to start treatment and to check for other conditions. This can include tests which check for conditions such as sleep apnoea or circulatory issues.

Testosterone can increase red blood cell production so it is also important to ensure that levels aren’t too raised before starting therapy.

Other scans or tests which might be carried out are things like:

  1. Oestradiol or oestrogen hormone: Oestradiol levels may be low in men with low testosterone levels as it is converted in the male body from testosterone. In the rare circumstances where a man might begin to develop breasts (known as gynaecomastia in men), Oestradiol hormones should be tested.
  2. Bone density test: A specialist x-ray, called a DEXA scan, will be used to measure the levels of calcium in your bones. This is a relatively quick and completely pain-free process.
  3. MRI: Likewise, an MRI scan might be done to assess the condition of your pituitary gland. This will probably only be done if there’s genuine concern on the part of your doctor.

Ultimately, your doctor will want to ensure you’re being given the best treatment possible for your body. That’s why they’ll go out of their way to ensure there are no other (potentially more harmful) underlying health factors which are causing the drop in testosterone.

Published by permission: Here

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