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Low testosterone in aging men

by director: Chris Steidle, MD

Symptoms of low testosterone affect many older men and the people who love them. This Center is about the symptoms of low testosterone, what may be the cause of low testosterone, especially as men age, and what you can do to increase testosterone levels. Andropause (male menopause) is not a new concept. What IS new is the amount of attention it's beginning to receive in the media. At SeekWellness.com, we want to help you learn enough about andropause that you can discuss your concerns comfortably with a health care professional.

We will also help you decide whether your male menopause symptoms are simply a part of normal aging and whether they require treatment for low testosterone. We can help you understand your treatment options and how to make sure that you stay safe during testosterone replacement treatment. If you have questions, feel free to drop us an email and we will respond with an answer. We are always here to help you seek wellness and age well. 

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Andropause or Male Menopause: What's in a Name?

The word andropause is formed by combining two Greek words - andro meaning male and pauses meaning stop. Using the original meanings, we can define andropause as a condition that comes about when masculinity declines. This concept and its set of symptoms, which have been described by medical practitioners since the 1940s, are still controversial. Since it was first described in the medical literature, it has been called "male menopause." This misleading name has further clouded the scientific evidence pointing to its existence and the use of medical treatment to reduce its symptoms. Does andropause exist or not? Is there a difference between andropause and normal aging? If andropause exists, should men be treated for it? 

Symptoms of Low Testosterone 

Before addressing any of these controversies, it is helpful to understand what the signs and symptoms of andropause are.


Sometime during a man's fourth or fifth decade of life, and sometimes as early as his thirties, his body's production of testosterone may begin to slow. The gradual decline, most often fully realized between the ages of 50 and 55, can produce a variety of changes and effects on the male body:

  • Erectile dysfunction (problems with erections)
  • Decreased libido (low sex drive)
  • Mood disturbances, including depression, irritability and feeling tired
  • Loss of muscle size and strength
  • Osteoporosis (bone thinning)
  • Increased body fat
  • Difficulty with concentration and memory loss
  • Sleep difficulties
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To see an illustration of the effects of decreased testosterone, visit Rembrandt.

Male Menopause or Andropause?

This syndrome has been nicknamed ADAM, which stands for androgen deficiency of the aging male. It differs most markedly from female menopause in the speed with which the symptoms occur. In women, the menopause (which means the ceasing of menses or periods) is a universal and comparatively sudden change. In men, the change is much more gradual and difficult to pinpoint. This difference suggests that referring to the syndrome in men as "male menopause" is not accurate and we prefer the term andropause

History of Andropause

Andropause was described as a syndrome by a variety of medical experts as early as the 1940s. The results of a careful study reported in a 1944 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association described the use of testosterone injections to rapidly and thoroughly relieve the symptoms of andropause. A variety of articles followed the study and made a compelling case for diagnosing and treating these symptoms in aging males. Yet, for the last 60 years, conflicting theories about andropause (and the name male menopause), the lack of convenient treatments, and the discomfort men feel about discussing their symptoms have kept doctors from accepting the syndrome as a treatable condition.

What's Going on Today?

Times change and people change. Baby-boomers are resisting the effects of aging as no age group ever has before. People are living longer and expect far more from the "golden" years than did their parents. Men are now freer to discuss their sexual performance problems with their doctors, wives and friends without fear of being ridiculed or ignored. New treatments introduced over the last few years have also made doctors more willing to bring up the subject of andropause and its symptoms with their patients.

Men "of a certain age" who are feeling less than their best should talk with their doctors about their symptoms. A complete medical examination that includes laboratory tests can help show whether testosterone supplements might help them feel better. If testosterone treatment is suggested, then we encourage men to try it for a period of a few months while keeping track of the changes they see and feel. If low testosterone is the cause of their symptoms, men will not have to wait long to see the effects of treatment.

We'd like to offer you our best help and support -- please post a message or question in our Aging Well Forum. Let us know what you'd like to learn more about and feel free to trade stories with others. See you again soon!

Last Updated: August 2013

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