Everything you Need to Know About Male Breasts (Gynecomastia)

Gynecomastia is a syndrome which takes place when there is a hormonal imbalance in boys or men. Two hormones, in particular, are responsible for such a development. These are Estrogen and Testosterone. When this happens, it leads to the swelling of the breast tissue in males which can affect either one or both of the breasts. 

Gynecomastia is not a serious issue but can cause pain in the breasts as well as emotional issues. It can go away on its own and if not, then it can be treated with medical intervention including gynecomastia surgery

Symptoms

Top symptoms of gynecomastia include – 

  • Tenderness of the breast
  • Swollen breast gland tissue

When to see a doctor

Patients should consult a doctor if they experience the following issues – 

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Nipple discharge 

Causes 

Gynecomastia takes place when the amount of testosterone is less than estrogen in the body. The reduction takes place when there are certain conditions which block the effects of testosterone or causes the build-up of estrogen. 

Some of the conditions which cause such developments include – 

Hormonal Changes

Estrogen and testosterone are responsible for providing defining female and male characteristics respectively in Individuals. While estrogen is viewed as a female hormone, men also produce it but in small quantities. However, when the level of estrogen increases too much, it leads to gynecomastia. 

Gynecomastia is also found in infants which goes away two to three weeks after birth. Apart from this, it also affects teenage boys and men aged 50 to 60 years of age. 

Medication

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A number of medicines are known to cause gynecomastia such as – 

  • Antibiotics
  • Androgens
  • Chemotherapy 
  • Anti-androgens
  • AIDS medications
  • Ulcer medications
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Gastric motility medications
  • Heart medications and calcium channel blockers

Street Drugs and Alcohol

There are some substances which are known to cause gynecomastia such as – 

  • Heroin
  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Methadone
  • Amphetamines

Health Conditions

An individual’s health conditions can also lead to gynecomastia when the hormonal balance is affected. Some of these health conditions are – 

  • Kidney Failure – Patients undergoing dialysis can experience gynecomastia
  • Hypogonadism – There are a number of conditions that can affect normal testosterone production such as Klinefelter’s syndrome or pituitary insufficiency
  • Hyperthyroidism – This is a condition wherein the thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine
  • Ageing – Hormonal levels are affected with increasing age and weight 
  • Liver Failure – Hormonal problems arising out of liver problems and cirrhosis medications are also responsible for gynecomastia 

Risk Factors

Risk factors associated with gynecomastia include – 

  • Old age
  • Adolescence
  • Use of steroids
  • Health conditions such as thyroid diseases, tumours, and liver and kidney disease

Prevention

The risk of gynecomastia can be decreased significantly by following the below-mentioned precautions – 

  • Alcohol – Use of alcohol must be avoided at all costs
  • Drugs – Illegal drugs such as steroids, amphetamines, heroin, androgens, and marijuana should be avoided
  • Medication – If any kind of medicines are being taken which is known to cause gynecomastia, then they should be avoided and alternate medicines provided after consulting with a medical practitioner.