Debating the Existence of Male Menopause
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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
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?
- 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
- 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