Although andropause is relatively unknown, it is very real. Thousands of men in Canada are affected by it. Here is information on the subject.
What is testosterone?
Testosterone is part of a family of hormones called androgens. It is the most important male hormone produced by the human body. It is secreted by the testicles and, to a lesser extent, by the adrenal glands. Testosterone is responsible for the development of the external genital organs, the appearance of the secondary sexual characteristics, and of sexual desire in men. Moreover, it helps to develop and maintain muscle and bone strength and health.
Throughout a man's lifetime, testosterone levels in the blood fluctuate according to various factors, including age. A significant increase in testosterone production is observed at adolescence, then reaches its peak at the beginning of adulthood. Concentrations of the hormone in the blood begin to decline at a rate of roughly 1% a year after the age of 30.
What is andropause?
Andropause is both a physiological and psychological phenomenon that can affect an individual on several levels. This usually occurs after the age of 50. This condition is sometimes referred to as androgenic deficit in aging men. For a long time, it was believed that normal aging alone was responsible for this hormonal decrease; today however, it is believed that it could result from several factors.
When testosterone levels decrease below certain levels, men can begin to feel its effects. Contrary to menopause, andropause does not result from the end of hormone production, but rather from a gradual decrease. It is important to know that not all men will be affected by the symptoms related to a lack of testosterone, even though this decrease is part of the normal order of things.
How is andropause manifested?
The decrease in the production of testosterone may be responsible for certain typical manifestations observed in middle-aged men, such as:
- fatigue and decreased energy
- sexual difficulties (decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, etc.)
- diminished bone density
- decreased strength and muscle mass
- increased body fat
- weight gain
- hair loss
- mood changes (sadness, irritability, depression, etc.)
- sleep problems
- gynecomastia (abnormal development of breasts)
How can you be sure if symptoms are due to a decrease of testosterone?
Speak to your doctor if you feel or present some of the above-mentioned signs or symptoms and are unaware of the cause. He/she will analyze the situation, perform an exam, and may want to measure testosterone levels in your blood. You may have to have more than one blood test, as testosterone concentrations fluctuate somewhat. The doctor will determine what the next step will be according to the test results and to your specific needs.
What about testosterone supplementation?
Not all men need treatment for decreased testosterone levels. In some cases, it is appropriate to consider testosterone supplementation to compensate for a lack of testosterone. The decision whether or not to use it is based on the levels measured in the blood, the symptoms felt, benefits expected on health and well-being, and the risks associated with the treatment.
Testosterone supplements can have various forms:
- topical gel, and
If you are considering taking testosterone supplements, speak to your pharmacist, who will be able to help you weigh the advantages and inconveniences of this type of treatment and inform you about the:
- expected effects
- mode of action and instructions for use
- possible interactions
- contraindications, warnings, and precautions, and
- side effects
What are the risks associated to testosterone supplements?
Supplements can sometimes cause side effects such as:
- breast sensitivity
- water retention
It is important to note that testosterone supplements have been associated to certain health risks. There is a known or potential link between these supplements and:
- benign prostatic hyperplasia
- prostate cancer
- sleep apnea, and
- increased risk of heart attack or cerebrovascular accident (CVA or stroke)
Currently available clinical data makes it impossible to draw firm conclusions about the link between these diseases and testosterone supplementation.
If you take testosterone supplements, your doctor will likely want you to pass periodic tests to monitor your health.
Don't hesitate to speak to your pharmacist for additional information about andropause, testosterone supplementation, and men's health in general! We also invite you to read the following text: Focus on men's health.