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Andrology is the field of medicine that studies health issues that afflict men. Like its counterpart, gynecology, which focuses on issues of female health, andrology is mainly concerned with issues of male reproductive health, including infertility and sexual dysfunction. Andrology, however, may also deal with urological issues that are specific to males, as well. A specialist who concentrates in this medical field is called an andrologist.
Derived from the Greek word Andros, meaning man, andrology is not a well-established medical specialty in many countries. For example, it is not recognized as a surgical specialty within the United States. In Italy and France, it is a sub-specialty within the field of endocrinology, while in Egypt and Indonesia, it is actually practiced as a specialty all its own. There is a movement to make andrology a widely recognized specialty, as many doctors feel that men who are experiencing fertility or sexual health issues are often left without many medical options. In some cases, men are left to consult their female partners’ gynecologists when infertility becomes a problem.
As a specialty, the main issues that andrology addresses are infertility; erectile dysfunction, or impotence; andropause, or male menopause; and male contraception. In cases of male infertility, the most likely cause is testicular damage, which often leads to an inability to produce sperm. Low sperm count and mobility are other factors that may lead to male infertility. Andrologists can address these issues through the use of drugs that may improve seminal quality, such as steroids or antibiotics, or through surgical intervention to clear any blockages that might affect sperm production.
Andrology can also treat impotence through the use of drugs, most notably Viagra®. Levitra® and Cialis® are other options. Hormone replacement therapy may also be used to address impotence, as andrologists will treat men with testosterone since natural levels begin to decrease with age.
This is the driving factor behind male menopause. By their mid-50s, men begin to see a significant decrease in testosterone levels, and some begin to display symptoms of lethargy, depression, decreased interest in sex, impotence, insomnia, and mood swings. Andrologists can treat male menopause with testosterone replacement therapy, which, as is the case with its use in impotence patients, raises testosterone levels and restores hormone balance within the body.
Andrology can also aid men in family planning matters. The most effective form of male contraception is a vasectomy — a surgical procedure that blocks the path that sperm takes from the testicles to the penis. When andrologists perform a vasectomy, it is intended to be a permanent form of birth control. It usually can be reversed with another surgical procedure — a vasovasostomy — but sperm flow cannot always be restored.