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Until recently, the entire subject of the male menopause was steeped
in confusion and controversy. While women were accused of going through
middle-aged crises and menopause-related aberrations, their male
counterparts got away with propagating the myth of the `ageless male'
and boasted of virility all the way to their graves.
So what's the real score ?
There is no doubt that a man's sexuality changes with advancing age.
The instant, anytime, `as-many-times-as-you-want' erections that are
more the rule rather than the exception at 18, do not last forever. With
advancing age, the urge reduces, erections take time to come on, any
time is not always a good time and the penis requires more direct
stimulation in order to get aroused. Besides, the erections may not be
as angled and rigid, and ejaculation becomes more feeble. The refractory
period (interval) between erections gets prolonged.
Is all this because of the maturation (maturity) process ? Is it
because by middle age man has had enough sex so as not to be unnaturally
preoccupied with it any longer ? Is this because his wife has aged a bit
and is no longer as attractive/interested as before ? Or is it because
of the pressures at the work-place, the demands of parenthood, or
pre-occupation with the lives of grown-up children and aging parents ?
Is there really something called a middle-age crisis ? If so, how is
it different from male menopause ?
Yes, there is something known as a mid-life
This is often a time in life when stability has been
achieved and the struggles that were once a large part of life are now
at an end. This new awareness that a life change has taken place can
sometimes trigger a crisis. For some men, new-found stability may
signify an end to vitality or youth. Many men find that after spending a
lifetime working towards the goals of family and peers, the end result
is unfulfilling. This is also often a time of change. Major shifts in
career, marriage and parenting often occur during this time period. And,
along with the physical signs of aging comes a realization of impending
old age, retirement and eventually death. This time of life will only
become a crisis if the changes become too difficult to cope with.
Mid-life crisis, thus, is essentially a problem of psycho-social
adjustment. It need not necessarily have a bearing on a man's sex life.
It is thus not synonymous with the male menopause although there is
frequently a superimposition of male menopausal factors in middle-aged
men going through crises and this makes the picture hazy.
Male menopause, on the other hand, is a
distinct physiological phenomenon that is in many ways akin to, yet in
some ways quite different from the female menopause.
Menopause is a condition most often associated with women. It occurs
in a woman when she ceases to menstruate and can no longer become
pregnant (usually). Men experience a different type of `menopause' or
life change. It usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 60 - but
sometimes as early as age 30. Unlike women, men can continue to father
children, but the production of the male sex hormone (testosterone)
diminishes gradually after age 40.
Testosterone is the hormone that stimulates sexual development in the
male infant, bone and muscle growth in adult males, and is responsible
for sexual drive. It has been found that even in healthy men, by the age
of 55, the amount of testosterone secreted into the bloodstream is
significantly lower than it is just ten years earlier. In fact, by age
80, most male hormone levels decrease to pre-puberty levels.
One hundred and fifty years ago, a German Professor called Berthold
showed that transplant of a cock's testis prevented atrophy of the comb
after castration. In 1944, what we now describe as the male menopause
was reported in a key article by two American doctors, Carl Heller and
Gordon Myers. They compared the symptoms with those of the female
menopause, and did a blind controlled trial showing the effectiveness of
testosterone treatment. Unfortunately, like many pioneering efforts,
these went unnoticed. Men were unwilling to accept that they could
attain `menopause' and such research was often hurriedly brushed under
the carpet. Men with genuine symptoms were told that `this is just a
mid-life crisis' - just like men with erectile dysfunction were told
that `it's all in the mind'. Besides, testosterone therapy had come into
disrepute because of its abuse by athletes and the concept of
testosterone replacement therapy for male menopausal symptoms was not
received very well. Further, there was much hype about the side effects
of testosterone, especially prostate cancer.
It was only after HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) with estrogens
produced tangible symptomatic improvement and `aging reversal' in
post-menopausal women that men sat up and, not wanting to get left
behind their womenfolk, began to take notice !!
Courtesy of Andrology