Irish men are seeking help in larger numbers to get them through andropause, the medical name for what is referred to as the ‘male menopause’.
Dr Deirdre Forde, medical director of Céile Medical, the first dedicated menopause clinic in the Midlands, says she is delighted that men are seeking help.
She highlighted that a lack of understanding and information, coupled with stigma and ignorance on the subject, has led to men not being offered the very real help and advice they need.
Speaking from her clinic in Athlone, Dr Forde, a GP with a special interest in menopause, said: “Menopause has always been a subject that people have shied away from. It is mostly associated with women. Even they have suffered hugely from a glaring lack of information and associated help.”
“It’s even worse for men as really, they wouldn’t link their symptoms to andropause and it creates all sorts of issues for them.”
“The male and female andropause and menopause, while sharing some similar symptoms, are radically different psychologically and emotionally.”
“Men really go through the mill and suffer from lack of libido and ‘drive’ which can have lots of knock-on effects, a dip in confidence and feeling ‘vital’ being the most common.”
“Men don’t, as a rule, talk as openly as women and it’s really difficult for them as they simply don’t know what’s happening to them.”
“Even if they did confide in someone, the conversation would be in hushed tones and quite difficult and potentially embarrassing for them.”
Symptoms include depression, loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, weight gain especially around the abdomen and loss of muscle mass.
Dr Forde referenced research dating back to the 1940s that shows that andropause being a real phenomenon. She said that she became really interested in treating male patients when her female patients in menopause explained that their partner’s symptoms mirrored theirs to a large extent.
“I guess I became more aware of andropause when my female patients, going through menopause, remarked that their husbands and partners had similar symptoms. I then began to explore andropause as a clinical entity.”
“It made sense that men were going to have reducing levels of testosterone but at different rates to women. We all know that men can still reproduce right into their 80s whereas women’s oestrogen levels just stop and that’s the end of their reproductive years.”
Their symptoms are similar – fatigue, sweats, brain fog, joint pain but more common in those who may be overweight especially carry abdominal fat and have Type 2 Diabetes. Testosterone levels may be normal, but the symptoms are there, she said.
“Andropause is a serious event in those men who do experience it – it has real physical, emotional and psychological symptoms.”
“Erectile dysfunction is a big part, and this has very upsetting effects on men. A lot of men’s confidence is tied up with their virility and so it stands to reason that it is really going to hit them hard.”
“They experience the whole gamut of feelings, none of them particularly pleasant or positive to say the very least.”
To note, her male patients are mixed and come from all backgrounds. “I have seen men from all walks of life since I opened Céile Medical. It is really heartening to me to see how their lives change for the better once they seek the very particular help and treatment they need.”
“I really want to get the message out that there is hope for them and there is help. No man should have to suffer andropause in silence and alone.”
Also, Dr Forde is offering online consultations to facilitate patients given COVID restrictions. She said these remote consultations “really suit” men experiencing Andropause.
“They really do, and maybe that’s because it’s at a remove physically; they really open up to me as their doctor and that is really important for them.”
“Stress is affecting both my male and female patients in andropause and menopause. I am inundated with appointments. I am working harder and later but knowing I am providing the help that patients badly need is worth it.”
“Things are hard enough so here at Ceilé Medical, we do all we can to be a calm, reassuring presence for men during this very difficult time and help to take away a huge amount of the stress.”’
“Information is key and is a kingpin of our mission statement here. When a patient wants a consultation via clinic/ phone or video (Doxy.me), I send them lots of information in advance. This is crucial; they can take a breath and fill in the forms at their pace.”
“I send them all they need prior to the remote consultation, including symptom screening, information on HRT products and much more.”
Medical card patients
Crucially, Dr Forde is offering a vastly reduced fee for medical card patients going through Andropause, passionate that they can readily access the help and support they need.
“We are offering medical card patients online consultations for €45 as opposed to the usual fee of €100. This is making a huge difference to patients in the midst of what is already a very difficult time for them.”
“The best present men gave give themselves for International Men’s Day is relief from the turmoil of andropause. Seek help and begin to really live again.”