That women reach menopause around age 50 is well known and increasingly discussed. Much less known is that men also experience a form of menopause: andropause. The symptoms are perhaps less intense than in women, but should certainly not be underestimated.
What is andropause?
Once persons born as men pass 40, production of the hormone testosterone decreases. This is normal and is part of aging. However, a small proportion (about 12% of men between the ages of 40 and 70) develop symptoms due to a hormone deficiency. As a result, they may suffer from fatigue, insomnia and mood swings, for example. But physical changes, such as weight gain, decrease in muscle mass and gynecomastia (larger breasts, or “man boobs”), can also occur due to the decrease in testosterone. It can also affect fertility and the desire for sex may decrease.
Testosterone is a hormone produced in your testicles (your balls). It not only takes care of your sex drive. It also provides mental and physical energy, maintains your muscle mass, regulates your fight-or-flight response and other evolutionary traits.
Yet andropause in men is not comparable to menopause in women. For example, men do not have a menstrual cycle, nor do all men experience it. Nor do men become completely infertile (they continue to produce sperm). However, there can be consequences for sexuality in men due to lowered hormone levels.
What are the symptoms of andropause?
Andropause can have physical, sexual and psychological consequences, such as:
- Less energy, less motivation or initiative
- Depression or sadness
- Decreased self-confidence
- Concentration problems
- Insomnia or sleep problems
- Increased body fat (belly)
- Decreased muscle mass and feelings of physical weakness
- Gynecomastia, or development of breasts (man boobs). Sensitive or swollen breasts.
- Erectile dysfunction
- Decreased libido
- Increased infertility
Before you enter puberty, your testosterone levels are also low. Once your body produces testosterone, a man’s body changes (muscle mass, body hair, low voice, higher libido). From age 30, testosterone production gradually decreases. As a result, andropause is a more gradual process than menopause in women.
In 2014, professor of endocrinology Ilpo Huhtaniemi of the University of Turku in Finland conducted an important study on “andropause. Huhtaniemi particularly criticizes the claim that testosterone deficiency leads to fatigue and other non-sexual symptoms. According to him, the large-scale research shows that the only symptoms you can really link to andropause are sexual in nature. Thus, men who do not have erectile dysfunction and/or have a reduction in morning erections and sexual thoughts do not go through andropause.
If you experience symptoms, contact your doctor. Sometimes therapy with testosterone can help. The family doctor can determine through blood tests whether your symptoms are caused by low testosterone, or whether something else may be going on. Thus, a prerequisite for the diagnosis “andropause” is often erectile dysfunction.
Impact of andropause on sexuality
Among other things, testosterone is responsible for libido (the desire for sex). So if testosterone levels decrease, the desire for sex may also decrease. It may also make it harder (no pun intended) to get an erection, the erection may not last as long, or the penis may become less hard. A lower libido can also be caused by men becoming less confident, for example, due to physical changes (man boobs, less muscle mass). These two things can reinforce each other.
Erection problems, however, can have many more causes than andropause. In particular, obesity and cardiovascular disease are much more common causes. Losing weight very often has the side effect of increasing testosterone levels.
What can you do?
If you have any of the above symptoms, first try living healthier. Exercise more, eat healthier. A healthier lifestyle will reduce your body weight and this will affect both your testosterone production and cardiovascular health.
Are you experiencing less desire for sex? It could be that you and your partner have been together for a long time, and it’s not surprising that sex then gets into a rut. Perhaps your interests have changed? It is well known that trying new things increases interest in sex. This is called the “Coolidge effect”. Communication with your partner is important to discover how your needs have changed. What still excites you? Try seeking intimacy in other things, such as touch, massage, or just being together. Sex toys can also renew your sex life as you age.
A penis ring or cock ring can help with erection problems. A cock ring is a sex toy you can use to make and keep a man’s penis harder and stiffer, and to delay orgasm. The idea is to put the ring on when the penis is still flaccid. Once you get an erection, the ring stops the blood in the swelling bodies from flowing out. This gives you an erection that is harder, longer lasting and more sensitive. Penis rings are not only fun for you (and your self-confidence), but also for the receiving partner.
Stimulating lubricants and gels: libido in a bottle
Stimulating lubricants (also called “arousal gels”), are lubricants to which an additional ingredient has been added that provides extra stimulation. There are lubricants that warm/glow – by cinnamon and pepper, for example – and cool – by mint and eucalyptus. These types of gels increase blood flow to your most sensitive erogenous parts, making them particularly sensitive to touch. They will also increase erection size by stimulating blood flow. By the way, stimulating gels work not only on the penis, but also on the clitoris!
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