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Can Men Suffer From Menopause?

By Matty Silver, Sex Therapist on November 26, 2014 in Other

Photo: Millie Williams

Photo: Millie Williams

Do fewer erections and less interest in sex sound familiar? We know mood swings, hot flushes, low libido and depression can be some of the hormonal changes older women experience during menopause, but what is not well known is that a number of men will experience some of the same symptoms when they get older.

One of my favourite sayings is: “Male menopause is much more fun than female menopause. A female gains weight and gets hot flushes; a male dates younger women and drives a sports car.”

The medical profession is still debating the existence of male menopause. Women experience a drop in oestrogen during menopause and men can face a decline in the production of testosterone. For men, the hormonal change is often more gradual and not all of them experience it.

The most common symptoms of male menopause involve changes in sexual functioning: reduced ability to obtain or maintain an erection, declining interest in sex and fewer spontaneous erections during sleep. Emotional changes include feeling sad or depressed, being moody and irritable, and having trouble concentrating or remembering things, which can cause a decrease in motivation or self-confidence.

Various physical changes can also occur, such as decreased bone density, declining strength and endurance, increase in fatigue and lethargy, aches, pains and stiffness in joints, and suffering from excessive sweating.

There is also the much-debated ‘midlife crisis’, when some men find that having spent half a lifetime working and raising a family was not as fulfilling as they expected. With the physical signs of ageing comes the realisation that old age is just around the corner, and this becomes a psychological issue.

Some doctors are concerned that the issue of male menopause has become a commercial opportunity for drug companies and private clinics. Several older men have told me they read so many advertisements promoting testosterone as a ‘wonder drug’ that can rejuvenate your sex life that they wondered if they should give it a try.

Taking testosterone when you don’t need it is pointless, I told them. I usually refer such cases to a men’s sexual health physician, or a GP who specialises in this area.

It is important to be aware that many of these symptoms are a normal part of ageing; others can be caused by a variety of factors. Many men who experience these age-related symptoms have unhealthy lifestyles; they may smoke or drink too much alcohol, avoid exercise and they are often overweight. These lifestyle factors may cause illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and depression.

However, if a man is healthy and starts to experience a diminished sex drive and difficulties in maintaining a strong erection, a visit to the doctor may help diagnose if he has low testosterone, and more tests can rule out other possible conditions he may have.

Men are often in denial about their symptoms. They have an ‘it will get better’ attitude – one reason the death rates of illnesses such as cancer and heart disease are much higher in men than in women, and the reason why some men die prematurely.

Women should take note of changes in their male partners and suggest they seek medical advice as soon as possible, because ignorance and denial can be a dangerous combination.

If you think your man is suffering from male menopause, give him some support. And, if you are a man who recognises some of these symptoms, don’t be afraid to speak to your doctor.