What You Need to Know About Gynecomastia

This Condition Affects More Boys and Men Than You Think

Man talking to doctor
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Walking around shirtless at the beach or in the locker room isn't always easy for all males. Many teenage boys and older men experience a condition called gynecomastia, also informally referred to as "man boobs." Although generally not considered a serious condition, gynecomastia can be very embarrassing and can cause decreased self-esteem and psychological issues

What is gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia is the swelling of breast tissue in babies, teen boys and older men.

It can affect one or both breasts. Typically, gynecomastia is not a serious issue, but it can be painful physically and emotionally for those who are experiencing it.

What causes gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia is usually caused by an imbalance of hormones, where estrogen (a female hormone) levels are higher than androgens (male hormones) like testosterone. Normal changes in hormone levels are often responsible, affecting newborns (estrogen from the mother), boys going through puberty and older men. Gynecomastia can also be caused by a variety of other factors, including:

  • Marijuana, alcohol, heroin, methadone, amphetamine use
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Kidney failure and dialysis
  • Deficiency of testosterone
  • Hormone treatment for prostate cancer
  • Exposure to anabolic steroid hormones or estrogen hormone
  • Radiation treatment of the testicles
  • Cancer chemotherapy
  • Side effects of some medications

What are the signs / symptoms of gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia starts as a small lump underneath the nipple. The following signs or symptoms may occur in one or both breasts:

  • Tenderness of the breast(s)
  • Swelling of the breast gland tissue
  • Increase in size of the the areola's diameter
  • Asymmetrical chest tissue

If you experience unusual and persistent swelling, pain, tenderness, and/or nipple discharge, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Can I prevent gynecomastia?

For many, there is no way to avoid gynecomastia. However, you can reduce the risk of gynecomastia by avoiding alcohol and illegal drugs. If you are using any medications that are known to cause gynecomastia, ask your doctor if you have any other options. 

What can be done to correct gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia during puberty is quite common, and 75% of the time, the issue resolves itself within a year or so. However, if gynecomastia does NOT go away on its own, and medications (or stopping responsible medications) are ineffective, you can turn to an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon for help. A breast reduction, targeted liposuction, or a combination of the two can be performed in order to remove or reduce the excess breast tissue.

For those who are struggling with gynecomastia, know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. You are NOT alone. If you are suffering emotionally, please reach out and seek help. 

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