Diagnosing and Treating Menopause and Andropause – the Male Menopause
It’s a well-documented medical fact that as you age your body’s production of hormones naturally declines. This decrease in hormone levels is part of the normal aging process and is most commonly referred to as menopause in women and andropause in men. We are all familiar with menopause, however andropause is now becoming a more commonly recognized and treatable condition affecting men of all ages.
As women age, their body begins to produce less estrogen and progesterone both suddenly and dramatically. For men, the hormone testosterone decreases much more gradually beginning around age 30 and continues as they age. The symptoms that men experience evolve over longer period of time and have only recently become recognized by the medical community.
While these hormonal fluctuations can cause a variety of symptoms in both men and women, they are treatable. Our body’s hormones are essential to health and well-being and bringing them back into balance can help to improve your quality of life and help you to feel good again.
What causes Menopause/Andropause?
During menopause, a woman’s body begins to produce less of the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. This loss is both sudden and dramatic, resulting in hot flashes, lack of sleep, decreased libido, weight gain and mood swings. It also marks the end of a woman’s menstruation cycle and her ability to conceive a child.
For men, the hormone testosterone decreases much more gradually beginning around age 30 and dropping just 1 to 2 percent annually. Testosterone is the male sex hormone that is responsible for creating and releasing sperm, initiating sex drive and providing muscular strength.
A significant reduction in testosterone levels can cause a variety of uncomfortable ailments including decreased libido, loss of energy, fatigue, changes in attitudes and moods and decreased physical agility. While the affects can be quite pronounced, they evolve over a longer period of time again making it sometimes difficult to diagnose.
Are you suffering from Menopause/Andropause?
- Do you feel run down or lack energy?
- Do you feel like your sex drive is lower than it once was?
- Do you have problems sleeping or sleep too much?
- Have you become more depressed, enjoy life less?
- Do you often feel tense, nervous or easily irritated?
- Have you gained weight, primarily in the abdomen?
- Do you feel not as mentally sharp as you once were?
- Do you experience hot flashes?
- Is your hair thinning or are you loosing your hair?
- Do you get less or no morning erections when you awaken?
- Is it harder to maintain muscle mass even though you work out?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, chances are you are experiencing a drop in your hormone levels which causes many of these symptoms. You may be wondering what options are available.
What treatments are available?
In 2002, the National Institute of Women’s Health Initiative came forward with the bad news that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) could increase the risk of breast cancer, stroke and blood clots. Doctors immediately took action by discontinuing the therapy in their patients. Unfortunately many women were now faced the problem of how to combat these symptoms.
With HRT no longer the most commonly prescribed option, women were struggling to find other treatments to combat their menopausal symptoms. Since this study came out, there have been some new thoughts within the medical community.
The original studies on the use of HRT only took into account the use of Synthetic Hormone Replacement, not bio-identical hormones. This method could be defined as the replacement of the missing hormones with look-a-like chemical substitutes with such names as Premarin, Prempro and Provera.
There have been new studies, however, that are gaining support from doctors nationwide. These findings recommend that HRT can be used at the lowest dose possible for the shortest time possible during the first few years of menopause.
But the associated risks still remain. These fears have lead many women desperate for relief to seek alternative treatment.
Many women have found relief of their symptoms with the use of bio-identical hormone replacement therapy.
Do men need treatment for Andropause?
Typically, men suffering from the symptoms of andropause are often treated for a specific medical condition. For example, an andropausal male may be diagnosed with depression and prescribed an antidepressant. However, if that man has other symptoms of male menopause such as loss of libido, the antidepressant will only exaggerate that problem.
In addition, men complaining of low libido and inability to maintain a strong erection are often misdiagnosed simply with erectile dysfunction.
Any one of these ailments can be problematic. In addition, testosterone builds bone, and low testosterone can lead to thinning of the bones or osteoporosis which can increase the risk of bone fractures. Studies also show that a low level of testosterone puts men at additional risk for heart disease.
When a male patient complains of symptoms that are causing a significant disturbance in his life, a doctor who suspects andropause will perform a blood testosterone test to determine the level of the male hormone (androgen) in the blood. Low testosterone is defined as less than 300 nanograms per deciliter of blood. The mean level for a 40 year old male is 500 nanongrams.
If a blood test confirms low testosterone levels, a doctor may prescribe a variety of treatments designed for that individual patient. These may include hormone replacement therapy, lifestyle changes such as exercise, a healthier diet, vitamins and herbal supplements, and the elimination of alcohol. Many patients can find relief and have significant improvement in their overall symptoms.
Andropause does not affect all men, and many may have varying degrees of severity. Anyone who suspects that their symptoms are a result of andropause and feel that their personal and/or professional life is somehow disrupted by these symptoms may want to consider seeking treatment.
The Bio-identical Treatment Option
Our life expectancy has increased dramatically over the past 40 years. We can now expect to live 75-80 years on average. With the aging process beginning as early as 30 for some, our bodies are around much longer to experience the effects of hormone loss.
Men and women all have the same hormones, but in varying amounts. All of these hormones are connected and work together, but as we age these hormones naturally decline. As our hormones decrease and become out of balance, we may begin to experience a variety of symptoms and ailments.
To combat these illnesses and the many symptoms that we experience as we age, there is a growing number of doctors in the medical community who are turning towards more proactive and preventative medicine philosophies. They are using lifestyle changes and bio-identical hormone replacement therapy-BHRT to not only treats the effects of menopause and andropause, but to improve our overall health and well-being. They are helping their patients to feel good again.
What is Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy BHRT?
Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is simply replacing the hormones in our bodies that have declined with hormones that are molecularly identical in structure to those in our own body to bring us back into hormonal balance. Bio-identical hormones are made from natural products such as yams and compounded by a compounding pharmacy to create a dosage that is tailored to the individual patient.
The beauty of using BHRT is the ability to tailor each person’s hormones to their needs using clinical acumen and laboratory analysis. After testing a patient to determine their current hormone levels, BHRT is used to create a balance of hormones and recreate what your body once had before aging began. Many patients find improved sex life, leveling of moods, ability to sleep better and lose weight and a general feeling of overall good health.
How are Bio-identical Hormones different from Synthetic Hormones?
The only real difference between bio-identical and synthetic is that bio-identical hormones are made by compounding pharmacies and synthetic hormones are manufactured by pharmaceutical companies and sold in medical pharmacies. Premarin, Prempro and Provera are synthetic patented drugs.
Synthetic hormones can be also be “natural” such as premarin derived from pregnant mares urine. What’s more natural than urine? The problem is premarin is horse estrogen and human estrogen is structurally different. This structural difference does not allow the hormone to bind as effectively to the hormone receptors and therefore more of the hormone is required to be effective.
Since these synthetic hormones are not identical in chemical structure to our own naturally produced hormones, they may adversely stimulate receptor sites that lead to side effects and possibly cancers.
Bio-identical hormones are molecule-by-molecule, exactly the same as the hormones present in the human body.
Are Bio-identicals Safe?
While not approved by the FDA these bio-identical drugs cannot claim to be safer or more natural to synthetic HRT drugs, but there are many well executed smaller studies that show that this type of medicine can be a proactive and preventative treatment of and for the replenishment of the body’s natural hormones.
It is important to select a doctor who is well-trained in anti-aging medicine and specializes in bio-identical hormone replacement therapy- BHRT. A medical professional will ensure that a thorough medical evaluation is completed prior to prescribing any medical treatment.
Should I seek treatment?
Aging isn’t easy, but aging gracefully should be. If you want to gain control over your symptoms and start living life fully again, there are several treatment options available. You should make the decision with the help of your medical doctor and choose a personalized plan that is right for you.