Testosterone – yes or no?

June 20, 2008

Just as oestrogen production declines in women as they reach menopause, so does testosterone production slows down in men as they too approach middle age. Women have physical symptoms to show them that their oestrogen levels are declining, but men generally do not have such markers.

The idea of a ‘male menopause’ is a popular one – the clinical term is “andropause – but there’s little evidence to back it up. However, the makers of popular ‘libido’ supplements have not let that get in the way of a potential market and there are a number of herbal products on sale that are aimed at men. It is true that some men do report sexual dysfunction or lack of desire, fatigue and weakness as they age, but most of these physical complaints are more often the influence of lifestyle factors such as diet, stress and inactivity.

The next step up from the freely available sexual dysfunction  is to take additional testosterone which may promise more energy, strength and virility – but rarely deliver. In fact, it can positively be dangerous. Although most healthy middle-aged men taking this hormone may experience a placebo effect at best, they do run an increased risk of prostate problems at worst.

Taking additional testosterone should only be undertaken if you have thoroughly discussed it with your doctor and they feel it would be appropriate for you.

By the way – it’s not just men who take testosterone, women also produce it in smaller amounts in their bodies and at menopause some women take it to increase libido and energy. However, my friend and colleague, Dr Bond and I used to run menopause seminars together and while we were watching the women seating themselves, we would look round the room and could easily identify the women who were on testosterone. They did not look ‘sexier’, but were instantly recognizable to those who knew what the signs were and it was not a particularly attractive look. Women too should only take it on their Doctor’s recommendation and always at the stated dose.


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