Many men, at various stages of their life, feel the pressure to live up to the expectations – to be a man. Apart from physical characteristics of a muscular body and strength, men often have to exhibit certain behavioral traits in order to gain societal acceptance and self-approval. Though cultural mores tend to define/redefine masculinity, many hormonal imbalances in men affect their health and well-being significantly.
Hormonal imbalance in men
While it is common to associate hormonal disorders and imbalances with women, many hormonal imbalances are seen as signs of aging or even inadequacies in men. Many medical conditions leading to low libido, and gynecomastia are frequently misinterpreted and are attached with a lot of stigma. But, hormonal imbalances are common in men and can occur to them at any age.
Male hormone deficiency can manifest in the form of andropause in older men who, along with age, lose their testosterone levels. This condition is akin to menopause in women and is also called male menopause.
Hormonal abnormalities in men are also caused due to adrenal fatigue. This is caused due to excess stress in men for a prolonged period of time. In this condition, the adrenal glands become incapable of producing enough cortisol hormones. Hormonal imbalances can occur in men when growth hormone and DHEA are out of balance.
Men also are prone to have endocrine dysfunction in the form of hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, hypoparathyroidism, pituitary disorders, and pancreatic dysfunction leading to type 2 diabetes. The most common form of male hormone deficiency occurs in the form of low testosterone levels (hypogonadism).
Risk Factors for Hormonal Imbalances in Men
- Obesity/eating disorders
- Chronic stress
- Underlying medical conditions
- Certain Medications
- Chronic illness
- Injury/disease/surgery to the sexual organs
- Chromosomal abnormalities
- Thyroid disorders, or conditions like prolactinoma
Signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance in men
Most men tend to ignore telling signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance. When symptoms of hormonal imbalance do show up, it is most likely associated as general aging and is often neglected. Moreover, in most cases, hormonal imbalance is not sudden, but gradual. It tends to manifest in innocuous ways that are commonly overlooked. Here are a few signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance that most men fail to notice.
Weight gain and subsequent obesity are in fact major risk factors for a host of disease conditions. Though weight gain is related to eating disorders, and sedentary lifestyle, hormonal imbalances also cause significant weight gain. Weight gain can directly result from hormonal imbalances as they act on the metabolism of a person.
Weight gain is a sign of hormonal disturbances in men who have hypogonadism (low levels of testosterone) irrespective of their age. However, middle-aged men tend to gain abdominal fat and lose on lean muscle mass. This is linked to a reduction of testosterone, which is responsible for the masculine appearance.
In men, androgenic alopecia or male pattern baldness is often associated with the levels of testosterone. A hormone called DHT (Dihydrotestosterone) that is synthesized by the body from testosterone is known to be responsible for hair loss in men. DHT is used by the skin, hair follicles, and the prostate. The action of DHT in men with hormonal imbalances leads to a reduction of scalp hair.
Male breast development is called gynecomastia. This condition can be caused due to various reasons including hormonal disturbances and medication-induced conditions. However, even in men without gynecomastia, gradual hormonal changes leads to a change in the shape of the breasts. The flat chest that is associated as a male characteristic changes and leads to enlargement.
Decreased Libido & Sexual dysfunction
Men generally associate decreased libido to an inadequacy and lose self-esteem. Though this can be a sensitive issue for them, most cases of decreased libido and infertility arise from hormonal imbalances. Decreased levels of testosterone is linked to decreased sexual desire, inability to sustain erection, and the inability to produce healthy sperm that is required to procreate.
Other symptoms of hormonal imbalances in men:
- Lack of energy
- Lack of concentration
- Memory problems
- Sleep problems
- Decrease in muscle mass
- Decrease in bone mass
- Appearance of skin wrinkles
It is important for men to be aware of the changes that occur in their bodies due to hormonal imbalances. It is also important to consult an endocrinologist in order to avoid long term consequences.