HAS your man been acting strangely lately? Does he forget to pick up the children? Is he always irritable or grumpy? Don't worry, he's not cheating, he might just be suffering from male menopause.

Yes, you read right, menopause.

What is male menopause?

Doctor Landile Mdluli refers to this problem as testosterone or decline in the ageing male.

"Men do experience a decline in the production of the male hormone testosterone with ageing, but this also occurs with some disease states such as diabetes.

"Along with the decline in testosterone, some men experience symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, depression and sexual problems."

Mdluli says it is important to recognise the syndrome because most men will not see it in themselves since their most basic psychological defence is denial.

He says most men seek help only when pressure is put on them to do so by significant people in their life.

"Help can be found through a variety of approaches, including exercise, diet, getting in touch with their spirituality, individual and group psychotherapy, medications, teaching men to recreate the social supports they have lost or never had, and teaching men to love and accept themselves for whom they are."

Mdluli says that unlike menopause in women, which represents a well-defined period in which hormone production stops completely, testosterone decline in men is a slower process. He says the testes, unlike the ovaries, do not run out of the substance they need to make testosterone. A healthy male might be able to make sperm well into his 80s or longer.

What are the symptoms of male menopause? According to Jed Diamond's book, Male Menopause, these include:

l Declining sex drive - not only does the man have less interest in sex, he will also have sex less frequently. From an average of three to four times a week in his 20s, sexual frequency declines to once a week or so in his 50s, to one to two times a month in his late 70s. A related symptom is that sex becomes less enjoyable for the man.

l Fatigue, lessening energy - once able to be on the go all day into the night, now the activity pace slows considerably. The same physical activity takes longer, with considerably more effort.

l Forgetfulness, declining ability to concentrate - though anyone can occasionally forget, there's a noticeable change in the ability to remember in male menopause. And it becomes more difficult to focus, which ordinarily is one of the male strengths.

l Weight gain - this increase in body fat and body weight is accompanied in male menopause by a loss of muscle mass. Start with this fact - a male that is sedentary will lose about 10percent of his muscle each decade.

The fat that is gained tends to accumulate around the man's middle section, another of the male menopause symptoms. Obesity, of course, is related to numerous health problems.

l Sleep difficulties - sleep, especially uninterrupted deep sleep, is the time when the body repairs itself and gets ready for another trip through the next day.

One of the male menopause symptoms is having difficulty in falling asleep, not sleeping well and having a restless time during the last part of sleep before awakening. Not getting enough quality sleep over time can have serious health consequences.

l Osteoporosis - though a male begins to lose bone mass considerably later in life than a woman on average, bone loss will happen and can be considered another symptom of male menopause. Women often begin losing bone mass as early as in their 30s, whereas bone loss begins later in life for a man.

l Confusion, indecisiveness, declining self-confidence - part of being a healthy male is the ability to solve problems, to be efficient, to be competent, to have power and to achieve. A consequence of experiencing male menopause symptoms is the erosion of these crucial aspects of being a man.