This article explains what gynecomastia is, as well as its symptoms, diagnosis, symptoms and causes.
Gynecomastia, or man boobs, is characterized by swelling and enlargement of the male breast tissue. Male breast enlargement is common during infancy and puberty, and it also occurs among middle aged and older men. While the condition isn’t fatal, it can make men feel uncomfortable, but fortunately there are treatments available.
The major symptom is the swelling of male breasts, usually brought about by glandular tissue enlargement or fatty deposits in the chest area. When the condition manifests, it is usually symmetrical, and sometimes it has a firm feel while in other cases it is more rubbery.
Gynecomastia usually affects both but in some cases only one is affected. The majority of cases do not bring about any changes in sensation, but some feel sensitivity or tenderness in the area. Rarely however, does one feel pain.
Gynecomastia is not breast cancer. Unlike gynecomastia, cancer of the breasts is usually confined to just one side. Furthermore, cancer isn’t typically concentrated around the nipple. If it’s breast cancer, it will feel firm and has other symptoms such as skin dimpling and axillary lymph node enlargement. Other symptoms of breast cancer are nipple retraction and nipple discharges, which are not associated with gynecomastia.
Gynecomastia stems from hormonal imbalance, wherein estrogen (female hormones) levels go up while androgen (male hormones), is reduced. If male breast enlargement occurs in pubertal boys and infants and resolves on its own, the condition is known as physiologic gynecomastia. This usually isn’t the case with man boobs because it needs treatment.
Everyone, male and female, have male and female hormones (estrogens and androgens). During puberty these hormone levels rise and fluctuate at varying levels, which usually results in higher (temporary) estrogen levels. The prevalence of gynecomastia among adolescents is widely accepted by the common man, but there is no scientific consensus because the estimates range from 4% to 70%. The disparity probably arises from the fact that there are differences in what is regarded as normal. The differences in the ages of those that were studied also affect the outcome of studies.
Man boobs may also be caused by hormone changes associated with growth, and if it occurs during puberty, disappear in six months or a year. On certain occasions, however the gynecomastia may last for a couple of years, a condition known as pubertal gynecomastia.
There are also medical conditions that could bring about man boobs, such as malnutrition. A study has been done which indicates that malnutrition and recovery feeding after malnutrition could precipitate gynecomastia. The same phenomenon has been observed with cirrhosis of the liver, which can change the hormone metabolism and cause man boobs.
Another possible cause of gynecomastia is disorder of the testes, which could reduce your testosterone level and increase estrogen levels. Sometimes this condition is genetic or it may be acquired from aging, reduced blood circulation, infection or trauma. Some forms of testicle cancers may also cause gynecomastia.
Generally speaking, conditions that change the hormonal environment in the body could lead to man boobs, and this includes hyperthyroidism and chronic renal failure. In very rare cases, testicular cancers may generate hormones that produce gynecomastia.
Gynecomastia may also be a side effect from any number of medications. Drugs that might induce man boobs symptoms include the following:
• Spironolactone: a diuretic which inhibits androgen activities
• Nifedipine and other calcium channel blockers used for treating hypertension
• ACE inhibitor medication for hypertension including enalapril and captopril
• Antibiotics such as metronidazole, ketoconazole and isoniazid
• Anti-ulcer medication including omeprazole, cimetidine and ranitidine
• Estrogen and anti-androgen prostate cancer therapies
In addition to these, gynecomastia has been linked to methyldopa as is HAART (highly active anti-retroviral therapy) for HIV. Studies show that HAART could lead to redistribution of fat and causing gynecomastia. In addition, digitoxin and diazepam are likely to cause enlargement of the breasts.
Finally, there’s plenty of evidence to show that drug abuse (marijuana, heroin, alcohol, cocaine) disrupts the hormonal environment in the body and makes you vulnerable to gynecomastia.
Males undergoing puberty are among the most susceptible, but middle aged and older males are also vulnerable. There are also cases of male infants with clear signs of gynecomastia. Aging also puts you at risk because as men age, testosterone production goes down, and as has been stated earlier, low testosterone levels makes one susceptible to gynecomastia.
The risk factors for developing man boobs associated with diseases like cirrhosis of the liver are similar, but the odds increase if you take any of the medications mentioned above.
Generally speaking though, gynecomastia doesn’t cause any serious complications. If male breast enlargement occurs during puberty, odds are the condition will disappear without treatment, but if it persists into old age, or you develop the condition long after puberty, treatment will be necessary.
Scarring might develop if the condition isn’t treated within 12 months, after which more serious treatments will be required. Even then, it will take longer to cure once scarring has settled in.
The biggest problem with gynecomastia is the emotional and psychological effect it brings about. Men are naturally embarrassed and it can make one feel insecure and self-conscious.
Is Gynecomastia Preventable?
In most cases gynecomastia cannot be prevented especially if it occurs due to hormonal changes in the body. Also, prevention is very difficult because men only take notice of it once the condition has begun to manifest. The only exception to this rule would be if breast enlargement is due to medication. If that’s the case you just need to stop taking the drugs to keep the condition from getting worse.
Stopping the medication is no guarantee that your breasts will go back to regular size, in which case you’ll need to undergo treatment to correct it. One of the most common misconceptions is that once you stop taking the medications that cause the swelling, everything will be restored to normal. But this isn’t always the case so if you notice that your breast size hasn’t changed, treatment will be required.
The good news is not only are there are a lot of treatment options, but man boobs is not usually associate with any long term issues. This is however, assuming that you have the condition treated as soon as possible. According to a recent study, men with gynecomastia have five times greater risk of acquiring male breast cancer compared to men who don’t have the condition.
Doctors don’t believe that gynecomastia is cancerous, nor is it a precancerous condition. However, hormonal changes in men, particularly increase in estrogen and androgen reduction, make the body more vulnerable to cancer.
Examination and Diagnosis of Gynecomastia
Diagnosis starts with an examination to ensure that the condition is indeed gynecomastia. As pointed out earlier, gynecomastia is usually brought about by the presence of glandular tissues around the nipple, although in other cases it is due to excess fat deposits.
In majority of cases, man boobs can be diagnosed with a physical examination followed by a review of the patient’s medical history. You also need to provide your doctor with complete information about the medications you take as well as drug use / abuse. If the doctor suspects cancer, a mammogram will be required.
Depending on the results, other tests may be done to help determine the cause. In such a case, your doctor might check your kidney, liver and thyroids to ensure they’re functioning properly. While this may not be directly related to gynecomastia, these tests have to be performed to eliminate other possible causes for male breast enlargement. The hormone levels in your bloodstream will also be measured.
There are several treatments available, and once you have determined that the condition is gynecomastia, you need to assess all the options available. However, the importance of diagnosis cannot be stressed enough because that will determine the success rate of your chosen treatment.
There are three major types of treatment options: surgery, pills and creams. You need to study each one, and you must consider factors like how quickly you want to be cured, the cost, if you’re concerned who will see it, etc.
All the major cities in the US have surgeons licensed to perform gynecomastia surgery. One of the reasons why this method is so popular is there’s a very good chance the breast enlargement will be successfully removed. Second, the treatment can be customized and personalized, and the surgeon will give you a good idea of what the result will be like.
The biggest problem with gynecomastia surgery is the cost, which can reach $4,000 or more. Since the condition is not life threatening, it’s considered cosmetic so there’s probably no insurance coverage. Side effects like bleeding, scarring and infection could happen after surgery, requiring medications and additional expenses.
If surgery is too expensive or you don’t want to deal with the possible side effects, you’re better off using a gynecomastia cream. Lately, more and more of these have appeared in the market, testament to their popularity and efficiency. Different types are available online and in retail, but you use it the same way, by applying the material on your chest.
These creams contain natural ingredients that eliminate the fats in your chest and restore balance to your bodily functions which have been affected by gynecomastia. Basically what happens when you apply the cream is the ingredients seep through your skin and break down the fats that are in your chest. Over time, it leads to a significant reduction in the chest swelling.
Pills provide you with another option, and it is less expensive than surgery. There are several male breast reduction pills available, and the best ones can treat majority of gynecomastia cases, particularly those brought about by fatty deposits in the nipple and chest areas.
There are a lot of benefits to using gynecomastia pills, the first one obviously being the price, as it will save you thousands of dollars when compared to surgery. Reviews and testimonials from people who have used these pills have given positive feedback, with changes reported
in just a few months.
The best gynecomastia pills have natural ingredients that have been put together to help reduce breast size. What these pills do is correct the imbalance in your hormones. At the same time, the pills eliminate the fatty cells in your chest that’s responsible for the enlargement, reducing the size until it’s back to normal.
What makes gynecomastia creams and pills effective are the ingredients they contain such as herbs and supplements that remove fatty deposits naturally. Researchers have determined that synthetic chemicals actually make man boobs worse, hence the trend towards natural treatments.
In addition, creams and pills usually have herbs that improve blood circulation, promoting oxidation and increases metabolism. The faster your metabolism is, the more fat gets burned, including those in your chest.
Choosing the Right Treatment
If you decide to go with surgery, make sure that the surgeon is qualified and that you are given information concerning the process, how long it will take, the total expenses and so on. Second, it will help to get price quotes first so you’ll know how much you’re going to have to pay.
If you decide to go with pills or creams, read reviews and testimonials so you’ll know what people say about it. Second, visit the official website and check the product’s ingredients. Do the ingredients have any properties that have proven to work against male breast enlargement?
That last point is very important because some products just use the term “natural” for their products, but not all natural herbs and supplements treat gynecomastia. Diazepam, Sclareolides, Aloe Vera and green tea extract are some that have been medically and scientifically proven effective.
Finally, follow the dosage directions as given because overdoing it might aggravate your condition. None of these will work miracles, but given enough time they will provide relief and you’ll see the chest swelling reduced significantly.