Though hormones are most often associated with women, men are just as affected by these chemical messengers.
Hormonal issues can all lead to health problems in men—from fatigue, loss of sexual desire and depression.
“One problem is thyroid hormones, and these are the same for men and women,” says Jake Messing, program director for Behavioral Health Services at St. Catherine Hospital. “Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid does not produce enough hormones.”
Symptoms can include weight loss, being jittery, a poor appetite, difficulty sleeping, irritability and mood swings.
On the other end, hyperthyroidism produces too many hormones, and symptoms include weight gain, fatigue, low energy and depression.
“A simple blood test can easily spot either of these conditions,” Messing says.
Though thyroid problems are often caused by diseases, Messing says these can occur at any time in a man’s life.
Dr. Navneet Singh, a physician at Advocate South Suburban Hospital, says hormonal problems in men might also be present at birth. Klinefelter syndrome, for example, is caused by additional X genetic material in males, and can cause hypogonadism—a condition in which the body doesn’t produce enough testosterone.
Another common problem hormone problem in men involve testosterone hormones, which are responsible for what are considered male physical attributes—sexual development, sexual desire, muscle growth and energy, Messing says.
“Typically we men lose around 3 percent of our testosterone level per year starting in our late 20s to early 30s,” he says.
Symptoms of low testosterone include a lack of sexual desire, erectile dysfunction, decreased muscle, low energy and weight gain, especially around the waist. Depression also may occur, he says.
“This low testosterone is sometimes referred to as male menopause,” Messing says. “There is a huge controversy about this currently, as it’s the Diagnosis du jour in the medical field, largely because us baby boomers are aging.”
If you’ve seen a commercial for low testosterone, convincing men to be tested, you’re not alone.
“The problem with these testosterone replacements is that they come with some pretty bad risks—heart disease, cancer, irritability and explosions of anger,” Messing says. “Like most trendy medical things, we need to treat low testosterone with some caution. Not all men who have low testosterone need replacement.”