Gynecomastia is the enlargement of glandular breast tissue in males. Often times, this happens naturally during infancy, adolescent puberty, and as men age. This hormonal imbalance is common and often will resolve itself. This condition can also occur as a result of different medical conditions and their medications. Anytime hormone levels are altered, there is a risk of gynecomastia.
The most obvious symptom of gynecomastia is the physical enlargement of the male breasts. Those suffering from this condition will notice that their breasts feel rather firm or rubbery. The enlarged tissue is also symmetrical relative to the nipple in the center. Although gynecomastia usually occurs on both breasts, there are cases where only one breast is enlarged. The breasts may also feel tender and sensitive, but patients do not usually feel any severe pain.
Gynecomastia symptoms are often confused with male breast cancer, which occurs in 1% of all diagnoses. Cancer is usually on one side and not centered around the nipple. There is also a chance of the skin dimpling or the nipple retracting when touched. These symptoms are not present in gynecomastia patients.
Boys and men are diagnosed with gynecomastia when there is breast tissue greater than 0.5 cm in diameter. A simple physical examination is usually enough to diagnose the condition. During the physical exam, hormone levels in the patient’s bloodstream is measured and monitored.
In most cases, especially during puberty, gynecomastia resolves itself, requiring no medical treatment whatsoever. If the condition does not go away after six months to two years, however, treatment is an option. Treatment would begin with a close observation of the patient’s medical history and prescriptions. This helps doctors determine if any conditions or medications are causing the condition. Once determined, the cause of gynecomastia will then be treated using the appropriate method.
Various medications can be used to treat gynecomastia, including:
- Testosterone replacement – best for older men with low levels of the male hormone.
- Clomiphene – an anti-estrogen medication which can be taken for up to six months.
- Tamoxifen – moderates estrogen levels and reduces the size of breasts. Used for severe cases.
- Danazol – decreases estrogen synthesis in the testes.
When medications are not effective to combat gynecomastia, patients have the option of turning to surgery. Breast reduction surgery, or reduction mammoplasty, is usually used for severe cases and not recommended for boys. Older men who have not responded to medications are usually the ones who end up with surgery. The type of surgery needed for gynecomastia patients varies depending on the grade and type of the condition.
There are also many different dietary supplements that can be used to reduce the volume of excess tissue in male breasts. Like most medications, the supplements do not always work on everyone, depending on their unique chemical composition.
In addition to physical treatment of gynecomastia, patients may also consider and need psychological support as well. Gynecomastia can cause anxiety and much embarrassment, especially during awkward situations. It is already difficult enough dealing with hormones during puberty, enlarged male breasts do not help the situation. At a time in their lives when boys are most self conscious of how they look, having enlarged breasts can crush self esteem. It is important to note that the condition tends to subside on its own when males are still young. If the condition continues, a doctor needs to be consulted.
Many gynecomastia patients seek psychological treatment through regular counseling. Therapists can help with self esteem and provide strategies to rid patients of anxiety and depression. Patients also need to reach out to their family and friends for support. The larger the network, the more support the patient can find. It is also a good idea to connect with others suffering from gynecomastia.
As a relatively common condition, there are many support groups and others who can relate to what the patient is going through. Simply connecting with others to share feelings and concerns can help patients feel less lonely and realize there are others out there suffering from the same condition.
The Symptoms and Treatment of Gynecomastia,