Saturday, 28 August 2010

Hormone havoc

I've never experienced anything resembling the male menopause, and I'm dubious about its existence. But some doctors claim that 20 per cent of men will suffer from it eventually.

Not surprisingly, that rather astonishing figure comes from a doctor who makes his living from treating menopausal (andropausal?) men. Other doctors suggest a much lower figure of 2 per cent.

Given that the symptoms (fatigue, scattiness, insomnia etc) are supposed to result from lack of testosterone, and given that men's testosterone levels keep falling after the age of 40, surely if there really was such a condition practically every ageing male would have it?

Also, given that women have virtually no testosterone, shouldn't they be even more incapacitated and barely able to function? Or do women's hormones work differently?

But one man, Dan Hegarty (a doctor himself) claims his life was falling apart. He was nodding off at work, he was unable to read the paper, his marriage was failing. After topping up his testosterone levels, he says he got a new lease of life and all the signs of physical decline were rapidly reversed.

Well, it's hard to argue with that miraculous recovery. But how come I've never gone through any such physical collapse and at the grand old age of 63 my body still seems to be functioning pretty efficiently?

Is my body mysteriously compensating for my depleted male hormones or was Dr Hegarty really suffering from some sort of psychological loss of confidence and inertia which then righted itself?

All I know is that some doctors seem to be making an impressive income from identifying the andropause and treating men who've succumbed to it. Did I catch a whiff of snake oil?

A Northern Ireland man applying for a nursing post in Australia was told he had to take an English language test. After protests from the Australian Nurses Federation, the test was waived. So what language did they think was spoken here? Irish? Welsh? Swahili?


  1. I wonder if this problem manifests itself across the board? Are there equal numbers of sufferers... say with macho manual workers and geeks or those who are desk bound?

  2. Grannymar - As far as I know, there's no reported link with the man's occupation. But there isn't even a consensus on what are "low" levels of testosterone in the first place.

  3. I've often remarked Nick that men seem to get more like women as they advance into old age and women vice versa.
    Perhaps the women ingest the vanished testosterone by osmosis?

  4. And who will benefit from selling testosterone replacement to men who are just experiencing the natural path of aging but don't like it?

  5. i doubt you ever had high levels of androgens!

    smells like snake oil to me

  6. I don't know, but I've known of some men who get testosterone replacement and also become more aggressive. God knows we don't need more aggressive men.

  7. Women do have testosterone, just much less of it. I think hormonal dysfunction is a very individual thing -- I have never had PMS, which if you believe the literature, is widespread.

    I do think that very old men and women are often more alike than different, though: Men have higher voices while women's get lower, and that is surely due to declining hormones.

  8. www - I've noticed that also, that older women and men tend to look more similar. And men usually lose some of their youthful arrogance and aggression. A good job too.

    Meno - Exactly. Some men may genuinely benefit but others are probably forking out large sums for nothing.

    Kylie - I'm sure you're right! I have as much natural masculinity as a lampshade.

  9. Secret Agent - We all know drugs affect every individual differently. Some men no doubt have very negative effects to extra testosterone. So suggesting every man should have testosterone top-ups is highly suspect.

    Heart - I think you're right that hormonal dysfunction varies a lot between individuals. Interesting that you never had PMS. Research shows that some men with high testosterone levels are actually very placid and unaggressive!

  10. It can't by nature be menopause which literally means a pause in menstruation. Whatever it is, it aint 'the change' When men undergo so-called "male menopause" or "andropause" their hormone levels slowly decrease, not abruptly as they do in women. And while men may suffer from sexual side effects or loss of sexual appetite, their ability to conceive offspring is in no sense taken away. So if male menopause exists,it should be called something else. I just think it's 'mid life crisis syndrome' myself.

  11. Baino - I don't think andropause is meant to imply the exact equivalent of menopause, just a similar hormonal upset that can cause physical and mental problems. And I thought mid-life crisis was something quite different, namely a bloke suddenly breaking out of a settled lifestyle and going a bit wild. Not that I've experienced that either....

  12. In a way, I am glad that my testosterone levels may be low. Otherwise, can you imagine what will happen to all the women in the neighbourhood?

  13. Ramana - Watch out for the ones who're having hormone replacement therapy. They might come pestering YOU.

  14. Nick - This is never going to catch on you know. Women being all hormonal has been one of the great reasons for not promoting them in the past. God forbid our captains of industry are equally vulnerable!

  15. Macy - Goodness, you're right, men's promotion prospects are in jeopardy. We might see application forms asking if we've ever suffered from the andropause....