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Menopause Not Just For Women

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WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Oct. 4, 2001 -- Have you ever heard, "Don't mind Steven, he's just going through the change of life?" That's right -- "he," not "she." According to some researchers, the idea may not be so far-fetched.

'Male Menopause' Research

The concept of a "male menopause" and the need for hormone replacement therapy as a treatment is still highly controversial, but you wouldn't know that from one doctor's attempt to recruit men for his study. Jerald Bain, MD, set out to find 100 subjects to participate in his study -- 900 volunteered for the chance to get a male hormone pill for what ailed them.

In the end, Bain, who is an endocrinologist at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital and the director of the Health Institute for Men at the King's Health Center in Toronto, was only able to use 30 subjects. His data has now been collected and he is analyzing it. He contends that "there is no basis for the assumption that the male hormone, testosterone, is dangerous." 

Andrew Dott, MD, and Anthony Karpas, MD, of the Institute of Endocrinology and Reproductive Medicine in Atlanta, contend that about 40% of 40-something men experience these symptoms to some degree: 

  • lethargy, or fatigue
  • depression
  • increased irritability
  • mood swings
  • loss of bone density
  • decrease in lean muscle
  • increase in fat
  • anemia, or low blood levels of iron
  • decreased libido
  • difficulty in attaining and sustaining erections

They say that these symptoms of "male menopause," also called andropause or viropause, can result from a decreased level of the male hormone testosterone and/or some of these risk factors:

  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • smoking
  • high blood pressure, or hypertension
  • prescription drug use
  • nonprescription drug use
  • poor diet
  • lack of exercise
  • poor circulation
  • psychological problems

 

Not 'Just Aging' Anymore

According to Bain, until recently, most doctors have considered these symptoms just part of aging and have ignored them. But now, he says, "we're beginning to realize we don't have to accept them all. We can accept the loss of strength, but to have to lie in bed at age 60 because of weakness and fatigue is not something we should accept."

Although men can experience a decline in testosterone levels with increasing age, and despite 150 years of attempts to rejuvenate men with hormone replacements, "male menopause" is still widely ignored. Malcolm Carruthers, a British specialist in men's health with a practice in London, suspects that one reason is historical.

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