The concept of a "male menopause" remains controversial in medical circles, but there's no denying its marketing appeal: Pharmaceutical companies are heavily pushing treatments for low testosterone, and the number of middle-aged men receiving prescriptions has jumped from 2.4 million in 2005 to 3.9 million in 2009, reports the Washington Post. One urologist estimates that 5 million American men are afflicted with the telltale symptoms of low libido, mood swings, and even hot flashes.
"It's not as dramatic or as abrupt a change as is often the case in women, but there is this subtle shift in hormone levels that can result, over time, in a man crossing a threshold where he then has a deficit of testosterone," he tells the Post. Skeptics, however, say that all of the problems can be chalked up to normal aging and that the "low-T" scare will prompt unnecessary screenings and treatments. "'Male menopause' is a loaded term, " says an endocrinologist. "It's got so much baggage, this idea that there's this condition that is somehow equivalent to the female menopause."