Male menopause: Myth or reality?

Aging-related hormone changes in men — sometimes called male menopause — are different from those in women. Understand signs, symptoms and treatment options. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Hormone changes are a natural part of aging. Unlike the more dramatic reproductive hormone plunge that occurs in women during menopause, however, sex hormone changes in men occur gradually — over a period of many years. Here's what to expect, and what you can do about it.

Debunking the male menopause myth

The term "male menopause" is sometimes used to describe decreasing testosterone levels or a reduction in the bioavailability of testosterone related to aging. Female menopause and so-called male menopause are two different situations, however. In women, ovulation ends and hormone production plummets during a relatively short period of time. In men, hormone production and testosterone bioavailability decline more gradually. The effects — such as changes in sexual function, energy level or mood — tend to be subtle and might go unnoticed for years.

So what's the best way to refer to so-called male menopause? Many doctors use the term "andropause" to describe aging-related hormone changes in men. Other terms for so-called male menopause include testosterone deficiency, androgen deficiency of the aging male and late-onset hypogonadism.

Understanding male hormones over time

Testosterone levels vary greatly among men. In general, however, older men tend to have lower testosterone levels than do younger men. Testosterone levels gradually decline throughout adulthood — about 1 percent a year after age 30 on average. By about age 70, the decrease in a man's testosterone level can be as much as 50 percent.

Jul. 23, 2011 See more In-depth