As you age, your hormone levels begin to drop. This has a ripple effect across your life and can lead to both physical and mental changes. But there are key differences between the menopause that women experience and the so called “male menopause”, sometimes known as the “andropause”.
The female menopause occurs when ovulation (the ovaries releasing an egg each month) ends. This coincides with a drop in the female sex hormones, progestogen and oestrogen, which cause symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and a lowered sex drive.
The male menopause isn’t quite the same. Although men do experience a drop in the male sex hormone, testosterone, as they age, it doesn’t happen with the same speed. Men tend to experience a decline of about 1% per year from the time they turn 30 - so you won’t notice any sudden changes overnight.
Although the male menopause is a commonly used term, it’s not a medical condition in the same way that what women experience is. It’s a collection of symptoms which coincide with midlife, but not everyone experiences it, most men experience it differently, and the symptoms and causes vary.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the symptoms which characterise the male menopause are not all caused by a drop in testosterone.
Not every man experiences all of these symptoms, but they tend to begin when a man reaches his late 40s to early 50s. These symptoms include:
Although some of these symptoms may be attributed to a gradual drop in testosterone, it’s unlikely that they’re all connected. Symptoms that may have a link to the testosterone drop off include gynaecomastia and fatigue. Gynaecomastia is typically caused by an imbalance of testosterone and oestrogen hormones. As the male hormone drops off, the female hormone allows for breast tissue to grow.
Often, the symptoms may be due to an underlying health condition, which your doctor can help you to manage. For example, erectile dysfunction may be the first sign of atherosclerosis, a condition where plaque builds up in the arteries.
Your doctor is most likely to suggest that you try to manage symptoms of the andropause through lifestyle changes. These changes most commonly include losing weight (if you’re overweight), taking more exercise, cutting down on smoking and drinking, and trying to reduce stress in your work and personal life. Practising good sleep hygiene, such as avoiding caffeine or heavy meals close to bedtime, may be suggested to help ease sleeping difficulties such as insomnia.
Although there is a lot of talk around the concept of a male menopause, it doesn’t exist in the same way the traditional menopause does. It’s a collective of symptoms which have their own causes, and can often be managed through lifestyle changes.