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What is Andropause?

  • As men approach middle age and beyond (40 and older) they may experience a phenomenon similar to female menopause, called Andropause. Unlike women, men do not have a clear-cut external signpost to mark this transition, such as the cessation of menstruation. Both menopause and andropause, however, are characterized by a drop in hormone levels. Estrogen in the female, testosterone in the male. Resulting bodily changes occur gradually in men and may be accompanied by changes in attitude and mood, fatigue, a loss of energy, sex drive and physical endurance.
  • What's more, studies show that this decline in testosterone can actually put men at risk for other health problems such as heart disease and weak bones. Since all this happens at a time when many men begin to question their values, accomplishments and direction in life, it's often difficult to link the changes that are occurring to more than just external conditions.
  • Unlike menopause, which generally occurs in women during their mid-forties to mid-fifties, men's "transition" may be much more gradual and spread over many decades. Attitude, psychological stress, alcohol abuse, injuries or surgery, medications, obesity and infections can contribute to its onset.
  • Although a decline in testosterone levels will occur in virtually all men as they age, there is no way of predicting who will experience Andropausal symptoms of sufficient severity to seek medical help. Neither is it predictable at what age symptoms will occur in a particular individual. Also, each man's symptoms may be different.

Is Andropause a new phenomenon?

  • Yes and no. In fact, Andropause was first described in medical literature in the 1940's. So it's not really new. But, our ability to diagnose it properly is. Because sensitive tests for bio-available testosterone weren't available until recently, Andropause went through a long period of being underdiagnosed and undertreated. Now that men are living longer, there is heightened interest in Andropause, and this will, in turn, help improve the way this important transition period is treated.
  • Another reason why Andropause has been underdiagnosed over the years is that symptoms can be vague and can vary a lot among individuals. Some men even find it difficult to admit that there's a problem. And physicians didn't always consider low testosterone levels as a possible cause. Doctors often concluded that symptoms were related to other medical conditions (e.g., depression) or were simply due to aging, and encouraged their patients to accept 'the inevitable.' Fortunately, this situation has changed dramatically. New testing methods and an increased interest in men's aging among medical researchers has focused so much attention on Andropause that major efforts are underway to quickly share emerging scientific information with Canadian physicians.

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