Like women, men go through changes as they age. Yet a man's midlife changes are much different than a woman's.
The word "menopause" means "cessation of menstruation," so it doesn't accurately describe what happens to men in midlife. Men who feel they're going through "male menopause" may actually be feeling the effects of aging. They may also be facing midlife psychological and spiritual issues.
In menopause, a woman's menstrual cycle stops permanently. At this stage, she can no longer become pregnant. Estrogen and other hormone levels drop sharply, causing various symptoms.
In contrast, testosterone declines slowly in men. This can impact fertility. But men may still be able to father children in their later years.
The effects of aging on men
Aging can affect the male reproductive system. Testosterone levels decline as a man gets older. Hypogonadism is the condition when not enough testosterone is produced. Besides aging, it can also be caused by chronic illness or by certain medications. Symptoms may include:
- Tender or enlarged breasts
- Hot flashes
- Irritability and mood swings
- Loss of bone mass
- Loss of muscle mass
- Concentration problems
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor
Other concerns may include:
- Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). BPH, or an enlarged prostate, affects about half of all men. It can restrict urine flow and make ejaculation difficult. If urinating is uncomfortable or if you get up several times during the night to go to the bathroom, see your doctor.
- Impotence. As they age, men can have problems getting and maintaining erections. These problems may be caused by conditions other than aging. Impotence can usually be treated.
- Decreased sex drive. Some middle-aged men become less interested in sex. Again, this may have nothing to do with aging. Chronic illness, medications or not having a partner are possible causes. Many men, though, enjoy sex well into late life.
Even middle-aged men in good health can feel stressed by new situations. You may suddenly need to care for aging parents. Maybe you start to question the value of the job you've held for years. You may start thinking about death, leading you to question what's truly important in your life.
These situations can have positive outcomes. Caring for older parents can renew relationships. Re-evaluating your life may lead you to work fewer hours or start a new career. You may decide personal fulfillment is more important to you than your present income. You may start finding joy in the moment instead of basing your happiness on what you may achieve in the future. Try to face these issues openly and share your feelings with family and friends.
If you're a middle-aged man, learn how aging can affect your sex life. Be prepared for psychological issues, and get professional help if stress interferes with your daily life. Think of midlife not as the end of youth, but as the beginning of a deeper wisdom.
Created on 02/08/2007
Updated on 09/14/2010
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Erectile dysfunction.
- Lourenco T, Pickard R, Vale L, et al. Minimally invasive treatments for benign prostatic enlargement: Systematic review of randomized controlled trials. British Medical Journal. 2008;337:a1662.
- Yaasin AA, Saad F. Testosterone and erectile dysfunction. Journal of Andrology. 2008;29(6):593-604.
- National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Prostate enlargement: Benign prostatic hyperplasia.
- Freund AM, Ritter JO. Midlife crisis: A debate. Gerontology. 2009;55:582-591.