Gynecomastia is a condition that happens to males. This enlargement of breast tissue can occur in newborn babies, adolescent boys, and older men. It does not harm males physically and can happen to boys developing normally as part of puberty. Older men tend to be diagnosed with gynecomastia as a part of the aging process. As people get older, chemicals in their bodies, called hormones, change, causing this common condition.
Who can get gynecomastia?
Gynecomastia happens when the gland tissue around the breast is enlarged. Although it may seem like a condition that only overweight males get, men and boys of all shapes and sizes can be diagnosed with gynecomastia. Often times, people confuse this condition with lipomastia, which refers to fat deposits in the breast area for people who are obese. Fat has nothing to do with gynecomastia, which is strictly an enlargement of the gland tissue. Typically, people refer to gynecomastia as “man boobs.”
What causes gynecomastia?
There are several reasons why the hormone imbalance occurs in men. The imbalance happens when there is more estrogens, or female hormones, than androgens, or male hormones. Most of the time, when gynecomastia happens during infancy or puberty to boys, the condition resolves itself. This means it works itself out. When boys grow out of the condition on their own, it is also known as physiologic gynecomastia.
All people, male and female, have both estrogen and androgen in their systems. During puberty, the hormone levels go up and down at different rates. The same happens as we age, resulting in the condition happening to older men as well. This can result in a male body containing more estrogen than androgen. Studies have shown that gynecomastia can happen in up to 69% of all boys. The condition can resolve itself within six months to two years. If it lasts for more than two years, it is considered persistent pubertal gynecomastia.
In addition to a hormone imbalance, gynecomastia can also result from a few medical conditions. These include:
Malnutrition: When people suffer from lack of nutrition, they have to go through a re-feeding process to regain their energy and get well. During the process, hormone levels tend to go up and down, causing gynecomastia.
Cirrhosis of the Liver: This medical condition alters hormone levels in the body, which may lead to gynecomastia.
Genetic Disorders of the Testes: Disorders of the male sex organs can be inherited, such as Klinefelter’s syndrome: The disorders can also result from infection, trauma, aging, or reduced blood flow. These disorders can lower male hormones and increase female ones, resulting in gynecomastia.
Testicular Cancer: Hormones are likely secreted from the cancer, causing gynecomastia.
Steroid Use: Athletes who use anabolic steroids or androgens to enhance their athletic performance is risking gynecomastia.
In roughly 10% to 25% of the cases, this condition can occur because of other medications. Non-physiologic gynecomastia happens when certain medications are used to treat prostate cancer and other medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism and chronic kidney failure. This means that gynecomastia can be a side effect of a number of medical conditions and abused drugs.
Facts about Gynecomastia:
- results from a hormone imbalance when boys and men have more estrogens than androgens in their bodies.
- results from a few medical conditions as a side effect from medication.
- can be treated using medication, dietary supplements, and surgery.
- can occur in normally-developing male infants and boys during puberty.
- can resolve itself within six months to two years, without medication or surgery. The condition goes away naturally for 90% of teenage boys diagnosed.
- is an enlargement of glandular tissue in the male breast and has nothing to do with being overweight with fatty tissue.
- cannot be prevented because it occurs naturally as the body goes through puberty or ages.
- is not a physically serious problem, but can present more psychological and social problems for both boys and men.