Gynecomastia: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment & FAQs

Things you need to know about Gynecomastia

What is gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia is a condition where the breast tissue or gland is swollen in boys and men. It is caused mainly due to hormonal imbalance (testosterone or estrogen) or if the person is going through hormonal therapy. This condition can affect one or both sides of the breast tissue. This condition can also occur due to certain conditions and medication. Usually, gynecomastia resolves itself without any need for medical treatment. However, it can sometimes cause pain or discomfort. Patients may feel psychological stress or embarrassment due to this condition. In some instances, surgery is advised to remove the breast tissue if the condition persists.

What causes gynecomastia?

The main reason for the gynecomastia is an imbalance between hormones estrogen and testosterone. Males generally only produce small amounts of estrogen, a hormone that is responsible for the growth of breast tissue. If this hormone level is increased or testosterone is reduced in the body, it causes gynecomastia. Obesity also causes this condition.

What are the symptoms of gynecomastia?

Most men and children with gynecomastia do not report any symptoms. It usually disappears by itself once the underlying condition is resolved. Signs and symptoms of gynecomastia may include:

  • Pain, particularly in young men
  • Breast tenderness
  • Nipple sensitivity, when they are rubbed against clothes
  • Swollen breast gland and tissue
  • Nipple discharge

What diseases and conditions cause gynecomastia?

Some of the conditions that can cause gynecomastia or male breast enlargement include

  • Adrenal tumors ( tumors on adrenal gland)
  • Alcoholism
  • Obesity
  • Kidney disease or kidney failure
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Klinefelter syndrome (a genetic condition that is responsible for low testosterone)

How is gynecomastia diagnosed?

Physical examination by a healthcare practitioner or a doctor is required for the diagnosis of gynecomastia. Other tests include blood tests to check for hormonal levels, X-ray or low dose mammogram, and urine tests. A biopsy (tissue sample of the breast) may be required to rule out cancer.

How is gynecomastia treated?

Most males do not need treatment for gynecomastia. If a medication or hormonal therapy is causing gynecomastia, stopping or switching to different medicine will resolve this condition. If it is caused by a disorder, treating it will reduce gynecomastia. Breast reduction surgery is advised when the condition persists.

Who might have gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia is seen in people who have hormonal imbalances. This hormonal imbalance between estrogen and testosterone can happen due to certain disease conditions, medications, inherited or genetic conditions, obesity, tumors, etc. Any male of any age can experience this condition. 

How does gynecomastia affect my body?

Gynecomastia is a condition that affects the breast tissue and glands in boys and men. The breast tissue appears similar to that of a female. It is usually a result of some underlying condition or medications. It may cause some pain and discomfort. Very rarely, it can also cause breast cancer in males.

How to get rid of gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia usually resolves itself. If medications cause it, stopping them or using different medications will eliminate gynecomastia. Also, treating the underlying condition can get rid of gynecomastia. If it persists, breast reduction surgery is advised to remove excess tissue.

How to identify gynecomastia?

The best way to identify gynecomastia is a physical exam by the doctor. If the breast tissue is swollen and resembles the female breast tissue. It can be a hard or firm lump beneath the nipple area or areola. This lump can be slightly firmer than a mass of fat. 

How to cure gynecomastia?

There is no particular medication that cures gynecomastia directly. Gynecomastia could be a result of an underlying condition or medications. Curing the underlying condition or discontinuing the medication usually cures gynecomastia. Breast reduction surgery typically permanently cures gynecomastia.

What medications or drugs cause gynecomastia?

Several medications can cause this condition. Some of them are 

  • Anti-androgen medicines 
  • ADHD medications
  • Some AIDS medications
  • Tricyclic antidepressant
  • Certain Antibiotics
  • Steroids and androgens to treat hormone deficiencies 
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Chemotherapy that treats cancer
  • Some heart medications like digoxin
  • Recreational drugs like heroin, methadone, steroids, etc.
  • Alcohol

Is gynecomastia common?

Gynecomastia is relatively common, especially if it is caused by hormonal imbalance because boys going through puberty and men above 60 years of age can experience physiological hormonal changes. Conditions like obesity are also becoming more common, which is one of the reasons for gynecomastia. 

Is gynecomastia surgery safe?

Gynecomastia is an easily treatable condition. Gynecomastia surgery or breast reduction surgery in males is a very simple, effective, and safe procedure. It helps get rid of the excess tissue in the breast area and helps in achieving a toned shape to the chest. It is also a quick procedure that causes minimal scarring.

Which doctor to consult for gynecomastia?

The best kind of doctor for gynecomastia surgery is a general surgeon or a plastic surgeon. The type of doctor to consult other than the surgeon depends on the underlying condition. For example, If it is caused by cancer, then an oncologist will recommend the type of treatment. 

Is gynecomastia permanent?

In most cases, gynecomastia is not permanent. It will resolve itself once the reason that causes it is removed. Most of the time, it does not require any additional treatment. Breast reduction surgery permanently removes the excess breast tissue that causes gynecomastia. 

Is gynecomastia surgery painful?

Gynecomastia surgery is a quick and simple procedure that does not require a lot of time for recovery. However, immediately after surgery, some people can experience mild to moderate pain. This pain can be managed by over-the-counter pain relievers. Pain also depends on the tolerance of each individual.

Is gynecomastia dangerous?

Generally, it is not a dangerous or a serious complication. Most commonly, it causes uneasiness and mental stress or psychological trauma in men. It usually resolves itself. In very rare cases, it can cause breast cancer in males. Breast reduction surgery is the permanent way to get rid of it.

What are the complications of gynecomastia?

It does not generally lead to any complications. Very rarely, it is associated with breast cancer in males. A biopsy is recommended to rule out the chances of breast cancer. It is important to know that breast cancer in males and gynecomastia are two separate conditions. 

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“The content of this publication has been developed by a third party content provider who is clinicians and/or medical writers and/or experts. The information contained herein is for educational purpose only and we request you to please consult a Registered Medical Practitioner or Doctor before deciding the appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan.”


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