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Male Menopause and Hypogonadism: What Men Need to Know

Male menopause, also known as andropause, is a term to describe the phase that men go through when they experience a loss in testosterone as they grow older. This is a natural part of aging in men, but as KSMU’s Samuel Crowe reports, lower than average testosterone levels in men can lead to negative health effects.

Hypogonadism is the term used to describe a decline in testicular function. 20 percent of men in their 60s have hypogonadism. Dr. James Bonucchi, DO, an endocrinologist at Cox South in Springfield, says the symptoms are similar to those experienced by women during menopause.

“He may experience symptoms like fatigue, decreases with his mental state awareness, problems with hot flashes or night hot flashes that sometimes women get associated with menopause. Men also see a decline in their sexual function related to their lower testosterone levels,” Bonucchi said.

Bonucchi says there is no way to totally prevent testosterone loss naturally. It’s supposed to go down as men age. But he says there are ways to prevent some loss.

“Conditions such as type 2 diabetes and obesity are related to the decline of testosterone and may have some clinical effect to worsen that decline of testosterone. Exercise and weight loss can help prevent some of that decline that is co-associated with other conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes,” Bonucchi said.

Hypogonadism may seem bad for a man’s health, but Bonucchi says there are some protective benefits of gonad deficiency.

“Testosterone stimulates the prostate gland to enlarge more. If you have a lower testosterone level, you can have less prostate hypertrophy, or enlargement of the prostate. If a man happens to have testicular cancer, and he has a lower testosterone level or has complete hypergonadism, then that helps prevent the progression of that prostate cancer,” he said.

Bonucchi says the prostate cancer won’t necessarily slow down with a lower testosterone, but he says one of the treatments for prostate cancer is to make a man purposefully hypogonadal.

Bonucchi says men in general try to downplay their symptoms of testosterone loss, but earlier treatment can help a man feel better sooner and with less treatment. He urges men to seek a primary care physician as soon as possible if they have questions or concerns about their testosterone levels.

For KSMU News, I’m Samuel Crowe.