Even though there’s disagreement among doctors, here’s a possible reason why
It seems that menopause is a serious discussion that’s been floating around, especially since a 73-year-old woman in India gave birth to twins in September 2019. There are plenty of moral and social discussions related to women’s reproductive lifespan, which I won’t discuss, but when it comes to men and the endpoint of their reproduction, there is some talk about andropause, commonly known as male menopause. I wanted to flesh that idea out and put it into some context. Is there such a thing as andropause? If so, what exactly does it entail?
What is Menopause?
For women, it’s the time when the door starts to slowly close on her ability to produce eggs and reproduce. Menstruation peters, egg production slows to the point and then stops, and within this transition is a lot of struggle. Doctors have listed some 30+ symptoms that women endure during this time. Some of the most prominent include:
Up to 80 percent of women deal with hot flashes and night sweats. For some, it’s a sudden blossom of volcano-like heat that causes you to sweat to the point of soaking, even if it’s a crisp 50 degrees outside. Now, the common theory is that hot flashes are caused by decreasing estrogen levels, but they’re not sure how. There’s a study suggesting that hot flashes are related to the thermoneutral zone, which is a range where you can maintain normal body temperature without any additional work for the body. Think of it like a +/-, an upper and lower limit, where there is no shivering or sweating, so your body is in complete homeostasis. The normal range is about 0.4 degrees Celsius. In those with menopause, that thermoneutral zone shrinks. That narrower range is triggered by the temperature changes that precede hot flashes.
Women who go through menopause experience some cognitive difficulties that make them feel as if they are going mad. Cases of forgetfulness and inability to concentrate are two normal manifestations. Menopausal brain fog is real. During this time, estrogen loss lower levels of a neuroprotective enzyme, causing the type of brain aging that can leave women more vulnerable to neurodegenerative diseases.
Urinary Tract Infections
Estrogen helps the vagina’s good bacteria thrive, which keeps down the bad bacteria. During menopause, less estrogen thins vaginal tissue, which can increase the instances of UTIs and incontinence. Sex is a major cause of bacteria getting into the urinary tract and causing frequent infections.
Again, these are just a few of the things that happen to women during menopause.
What is Andropause?
In order to understand how the idea of male menopause came about, we need to take a look at the underlying cause of the assumption, late-onset male hypogonadism, also known as low testosterone. As men age, their testosterone levels start to dip, starting at age 30. This is considered a natural decline. It’s estimated that over 40 percent of men over 45 have low-T. While some estimate that 300 nanograms per deciliter is the threshold, research is suggesting that it’s hard to pinpoint an exact number, because every man’s body is different.
Testosterone is responsible for men’s lean body mass, musculature, libido, and erectile function. However, a small amount of testosterone is converted to estradiol, an estrogen, and both work together to maintain male health. Low testosterone can manifest as erectile dysfunction, increased body fat, and even gynecomastia, or enlarged breasts. Men also have lower sperm production and motility, bone mass loss, difficulty concentrating, and even hot flashes.
Is Andropause Real?
Really, when you look at the symptoms list for male hypogonadism, there are striking similarities that make the case for male menopause. But there’s one fundamental reason why scientists hesitate to declare such a thing, and it is this:
Low testosterone doesn’t happen to all men, while menopause affects all women.
Less than half of men will experience this, and there will be treatments for them just as there are for women. But menopause is a systematized condition that has a spectrum of symptoms and effects that all women have to tackle in one form or another.
It’s really that simple.
There are many men who father children in their later years, while it is rare for women to be able to successfully reproduce in their 50’s and beyond without medical intervention.
Now, having said that, andropause MAY exist, and if we’re being fair, there isn’t much research on this issue, so there can’t be outright denial. For the moment, in the eyes of medical professionals and organizations, there is no such condition as male menopause.