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Debating the Existence of Male Menopause


In other words, some men might have mood swings, develop osteoporosis, and experience a decline in sexual function, but these three symptoms may be the result of three discrete causes rather than just the one -- a decline in testosterone.

Loren Lipson, MD, agrees that the symptoms individual men may develop are due to several causes. "There have been studies showing that as [some men] get older, levels of testosterone fall. ... Other individuals maintain testosterone in the normal range and such individuals may or may not have diminished sexual activity. There is no question that people in their 60s and 70s are prone to many chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and [hardening of the arteries], which also interfere with sexual function," he says. Lipson, chief of the division of geriatric medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, is an endocrinologist and board-certified in geriatric medicine.

Lipson adds that the closest thing to male menopause is more emotional than physical. "This is what has been called in men 'the midlife crisis,' which as far as I know doesn't have hormonal changes to it. And to relieve these feelings of failure, of not living up to [one's] potential, the male of the species has done many weird and interesting things: bought a red Corvette at the age of 55, left a wife of 30 years for someone who is 18 years old -- that sort of thing," he says.

Lipton says treating men with testosterone may be of use to the ones who have low levels to begin with, but he is concerned about some of testosterone's possible side effects, such as prostate enlargement, or accelerating the growth of existing prostate cancer.

Lipton says the debate has been raging for the last 25 years and will "probably not" be resolved any time soon. A small, random, and completely unscientific survey conducted by this reporter, among her colleagues, confirms this. In response to the question, 'Does male menopause exist?' respondents were split into four groups. Two respondents said they believe that some men may experience a type of menopause. Two dismissed the thought as demeaning to women and what they experience. One said it was analogous to a midlife crisis. And three debated the issue on semantics ("men don't have uteri" or a "cessation of periods"). But as one colleague said, "Then again, it is called MENopause."

What's next, male PMS?

Vital Information:

  • As men age, they may experience loss of libido, depression, poor concentration and memory, loss of bone strength, and muscle weakness, and some people want to call the aggregate of these symptoms "male menopause."
  • Others argue that these symptoms are the natural results of aging, and are not necessarily caused by a decline in testosterone among aging men.
  • Older men with low levels of testosterone can be treated with the hormone, but experts are still uncertain as to the utility of this type of treatment.

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