NEW ORLEANS – It’s called andropause, the time in a man’s life when he stops making as much testosterone as when he was younger. It causes a low quality of life and health problems if men do not get it treated.
Most people know that when women hit their 40s, their ovaries start making fewer hormones. It’s called perimenopause, and as time goes on they start having health problems as they hit menopause and their ovaries stop making hormones. One of those health problems is bone loss called osteoporosis, which can shorten their lives later on.
But few people have heard that the same condition happens in men.
“The things to look for include depression, diminished libido, being lethargic, certainly if one has lost muscle mass and is overweight, if one has conditions such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, these men are at increased risk for a having low testosterone and should be evaluated when these symptoms present,” said Urologist Dr. Natan Bar-Chama.
Bar-Chama is the director of Male Reproductive Medicine and Surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. He said the male hormone testosterone can begin to wane in men’s 40s, leading to a condition called hypogonadism or Low T.
“The testosterone is a crucial hormone. It is responsible for muscle tone. It also keeps your weight down. People who have low testosterone levels often present with obesity and being overweight, but we are looking at bone health testosterone is crucial for maintaining bone density,” he added.
The condition can cause osteoporosis or thinning bones in men, just as low estrogen in women causes osteoporosis. He said 2 million men in the U.S. have the thin-bone condition, which can be deadly, because a lot of times once people fall and break their hip or break their bones and never recover.
“Let me tell you that is one of the most devastating outcomes of hip fractures, especially in men. If a male has a hip fracture about a third of them will die in the following year,” Bar-Chama said.
Low T can also cause erectile dysfunction. While there are many causes of E.D. such as clogged arteries from poor diet and lack of exercise, the doctor says 20 percent of the cases are from low testosterone.
Low T can also contribute to getting diabetes. And those who are already diabetic have a higher incidence of low testosterone.
A simple blood test can tell you if your testosterone level is low. And hormone replacement therapy can help.
“The oral treatment (pills) of testosterone is not effective. There are patches, there are gels, and there are injections, and the gels are predominately the most common form of testosterone replacement in the United States,” Bar-Chama said. “It’s very important to realize that what we’re talking about is normalization of levels. We’re not talking about achieving super physiological levels and that is where the risk is primarily noted.”
Women can also have low testosterone, which can cause the same symptoms as men: low sex drive, fatigue, depression and weight gain.
The FDA has not approved testosterone replacement for women, but hormone expert doctors use it off label to help women return to normal levels and restore quality of life.