Male Menopause May Affect Only a Few Men
Long-term study debunks notion of 'healthy obesity'
(HealthDay News) -- Low testosterone apparently isn't as common among older men as many thought.
Some men take testosterone supplements to fight male menopause, supposedly caused by age-related declines in testosterone. But it's not clear if taking the supplements is safe. Nor is it clear whether male menopause, sometimes called andropause, even exists or, if it does, how best to treat the condition.
A study by British researchers, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that only about 2 percent of middle-aged and elderly men have male menopause.
The team from Imperial College London and the University of Manchester checked testosterone levels in 3,369 men 40 to 79 years old and compared those levels with 32 possible symptoms.
Of those symptoms, only six were peripherally associated with decreased testosterone levels, and only three were strongly associated, the researchers found.
Of the six that were peripherally associated, three were psychological: fatigue, low energy and sadness. Three others were physical: unable to bend over or kneel, unable to walk more than one kilometer and unable to engage in strenuous physical activity.
The three symptoms strongly associated with low testosterone were sexual: less frequent morning erections, lower sex drive and erectile dysfunction.
To be diagnosed with male menopause, men need to have all three sexual symptoms plus measurably lower levels of testosterone, the researchers said.
Male menopause "is a genuine syndrome, but much less common than previously assumed," the study's senior author, Dr. Ilpo Huhtaniemi, a professor of reproductive endocrinology in the department of surgery and cancer at Imperial College London, told HealthDay.
Testosterone is responsible for typical male characteristics and helps maintain sex drive, sperm production and facial, pubic and body hair, as well as muscle and bone, according to the Endocrine Society.
Short-term effects of low testosterone include decreased sex drive, poor erections, low sperm count and enlarged breasts. Long-term effects include loss of body hair, reduced muscle bulk and strength, increased body fat, weaker bones, less energy, smaller testes and mood changes.
The symptoms caused by low testosterone vary from person to person.
"A lot of people abuse testosterone who shouldn't, and a lot of men who should get it aren't," Dr. Michael Hermans, chief of the section of andrology, male sexual dysfunction and male infertility at Scott & White in Temple, Texas, told HealthDay.
"Just because an older guy comes in and says he has a bad sex life, you don't automatically give him testosterone," he added.
Hermans also noted that though many testosterone products are available, there's little research on whether they actually help men or whether they're safe.
On the Web
To learn more about testosterone testing, visit the American Association for Clinical Chemistry.
SOURCES: HealthDay News; Ilpo Huhtaniemi, M.D., Ph.D., professor, reproductive endocrinology, department of surgery and cancer, Imperial College London; Michael Hermans, M.D., associate professor, surgery, Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, and chief, section of andrology, male sexual dysfunction and male infertility, Scott & White, Temple, Texas; June 16, 2010, New England Journal of Medicine, online; Endocrine Society (www.hormone.org)
Author: Robert Preidt
Publication Date: July 31, 2011
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