Irritable Male Syndrome-- Male Equivalent of P.M.S.?

Listen to these symptoms- irritability... depression... bloating.

And all because of hormones. Think we're talking about PMS? No.

The symptoms also describe a condition that may affect millions of men! Listen up wives! A couple of doctors have even given it a name. They call it "Irritable Male Syndrome" or IMS. And they say there may even be treatments to help the "grumpy old man" in your life.

A few years ago, Michael and Connie Hillegass hit a snag in their marriage. Something was different about Michael. "It's like a switch was turned off. There was no lust. No desire," says Michael Hillegass. Scott Simmons noticed changes when he hit middle age, too. "Tired, lethargic. Didn't have a zest for work anymore. Started gaining weight," says Scott Simmons. Both men went for help. The diagnosis? "IMS".

Doctor Christopher Steidle helped Scott. "IMS is incredibly common, in up to 30 percent of men," says Dr. Christopher Steidle. "This is a male version of PMS or premenstrual syndrome." When a man's testosterone level dips, Steidle says, it can result in depression, weight gain, a loss of energy and a disappearing sex drive, in men as young as their thirties. "Many of the symptoms are indistinguishable from old age," says Dr. Steidle. "And for years you've always thought of it as a 'grumpy old man.' now we know the grumpy old man probably has IMS."

When the affection disappears, depression appears. It can be confusing for the woman behind the man. Connie Hillegass blamed herself. "Is he interested in someone else? What's going on? There's got to be a reason," says Connie. "The impact of IMS on the family is incredible," says Dr. Steidle. "I don't think that this particular syndrome, at this point is legitimate," says Channel 7 MedTeam Dr. Ed Dominguez. Dr. Dominguez says it's just the latest thing, and wouldn't be surprised if there was a book in the works somewhere. The effort to find a male equivalent to PMS and a cute label for it, doesn't surprise him. "We know what PMS is," says Dr. Dominguez. "We know how to treat it, what causes it in general, the symptoms are very well described and accepted by most healthcare professionals. IMS is quite a bit different. There are only a few people who feel like they know what it is, the symptoms aren't well described, we don't know what causes it and we don't know how to treat it. So at this point and time there are only a couple of self proclaimed experts who seem to be telling us that this is a significant problem when in fact there probably isn't." Case in point-- There's as much debate about how to treat IMS as there is about its existence. For instance, does diet play a role?

"The role of diet in triggering this syndrome is probably very minimal," says Dr. Steidle. But Dr. Larrian Gillespie disagrees. She's a urologist who believes two things trigger IMS. "Under the circumstances of stress and then particular dietary changes, men exhibit these symptoms of irritable male syndrome, much like women do with PMS," says Dr. Gillespie. She believes men can fight back by eating right. Her book, "The Gladiator Diet" looks at what 'he-men of olde' used to eat before battle. "People can't get a chariot through a drive-in, so there wasn't fast food," she says. Fats and carbs block the body's ability to use testosterone, she says. Proteins and unprocessed foods can help. "Consuming a diet of around 300-350 calories about 5 times a day will keep testosterone and insulin levels smooth," says Dr. Gillespie.

It's the kind of debate that someday could lead to something. But don't look for universal insurance coverage for IMS just yet. "If you're asking me, will I ever make the diagnosis of IMS, I won't do it until a governing body, or a group of physicians throughout the U.S., and preferably throughout the world get together and decide what the appropriate symptoms are," says Dr. Dominguez.

Both Scott Simmons and Michael Hillegass found improvement through hormone therapy-- something that is known about in the medical community. "My belly went away," says Scott. "I'm more interested in just getting out and doing things," says Michael. And it wasn't just Michael who noticed the changes. "It's like wow, yes, this is a different guy, ya know, a whole different personality," says Michael's wife, Connie.

Joe Terrell reporting.