There are many medical conditions that affect the male population and some of them can lead to serious health problems. One of the many medical conditions that affect men is gynecomastia and this can be an unsightly physical condition. Although gynecomastia does not lead to long-term health problems, it can lead to various body image issues and psychological issues.
Gynecomastia is the swelling of the breast tissue in men, which is caused by an imbalance of the hormones estrogen and testosterone. An enlarged breast is the most common term used for the medical condition gynecomastia. The hormonal imbalance often occurs in newborns and boys that are going through puberty, as well as older men who go through normal hormone changes. Although gynecomastia is not a serious medical condition that affects men, the most difficult part of this condition is the physical change in appearance. It is important to know what the symptoms are of gynecomastia so that you can be prepared if the symptoms develop.
When the testosterone levels in a man are smaller than the levels of estrogen, gynecomastia could occur. The cause of gynecomastia could be related to conditions that block effects of testosterone or it can be caused by conditions that increase the estrogen level. There are many things that can change the hormone levels in men including natural hormone changes, health conditions or certain medications. Sometimes a cause for gynecomastia is never found after ruling out all other known causes of the condition. A lot of male infants are born with gynecomastia due to having the effects of estrogen in their system from their mother. Usually in an infant, the swelling of the breast tissue will go away within a month after birth. During puberty, it is not uncommon for a boy to get gynecomastia due to the change in hormone levels. If gynecomastia occurs during puberty, it will normally go away by itself without treatment in six-months to two-years. Older men are also known to get gynecomastia because of natural hormone changes that occur during the ages of 50 and 80.
Some causes of gynecomastia include things you might not consider, so it is important to look closely at the items you are putting into your body. Medications can also cause gynecomastia to occur and include AIDS medication, anti-androgens used to treat prostate cancer and anti-anxiety medications. Chemotherapy, ulcer medication, antibiotics, tricyclic antidepressants and heart medications also might be the underlying cause of gynecomastia. Street drugs such as anabolic steroids, heroin, marijuana, amphetamines and alcohol might also cause gynecomastia. Gynecomastia could also occur because of health conditions such as aging, hypogonadism, tumors, liver failure, kidney failure, malnutrition or starvation and hyperthyroidism. The health conditions all are known to affect the level of various hormones in the body including estrogen or testosterone. Not all men will get gynecomastia in their lifetime and some men are more susceptible to the disease due to various risk factors.
Some common risk factors for developing gynecomastia include aging, adolescence, using drugs or anabolic steroids or having a specific medical condition that affects hormone levels. There are no serious complications from having gynecomastia except having a body image problem or lower self-esteem. Men who have gynecomastia often experience long-term psychological or emotional problems associated with their swollen breasts. Once you know you have risk factors to develop gynecomastia and you notice symptoms, you can see a doctor to get a confirmed diagnosis.
To confirm the diagnosis of gynecomastia, a doctor will start off with questions about your medical history and family history. Learning your basic medical history can help the doctor to determine your risk of getting the condition. A doctor will probably do a thorough physical examination including checking your breasts, genitals and abdomen. Since gynecomastia can be caused by other medical conditions, it is important to rule those specific conditions out before making a confirmed diagnosis of gynecomastia. Breast cancer, breast abscesses and just having fatty breast tissue are all medical conditions that present with similar symptoms as gynecomastia. A blood test and mammogram will help the doctor confirm the initial diagnosis of gynecomastia. Testicular ultrasounds, chest images, tissue biopsies, magnetic resonance imaging and computerized tomography might also be used to help confirm the diagnosis. Usually the extra testing is only done if the initial testing comes back with inconclusive results. Once your doctor has confirmed the diagnosis of gynecomastia, you can move toward developing a treatment plan.
Gynecomastia usually does not require any treatment since it often goes away after time by itself. If gynecomastia is caused by an underlying medical condition, the doctor will treat you for that specific condition first. If it is found that a medication is causing the gynecomastia to develop, your doctor might stop that medication and put you on a different medication. An adolescent will probably not require any treatment except for evaluations twice a year to see whether the gynecomastia has progressed. An adolescent might need treatment if the condition does not get better by itself and if it is causing pain or embarrassment. There are some medications being used to treat breast cancer that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration your doctor might prescribe. The medications have not been specifically approved to help men with gynecomastia, but they could stop the progression of swelling. If there is still significant breast swelling then surgery might be the best option to get rid of the excess tissue. Liposuction and a mastectomy are the preferred types of surgery used to treat men with gynecomastia. Liposuction will remove the breast fat but not the breast gland tissue itself and a mastectomy removes the breast gland tissue.
Preventing gynecomastia from occurring comes down to a few simple things, although prevention does not always work depending upon the cause. Some common things you can do as a man to prevent gynecomastia includes avoiding illegal drugs and limiting alcohol consumption. You should also be checking your medications for breast swelling as a common side effect. If the gynecomastia is due to normal hormonal changes, then there is nothing you can do to prevent it from occurring except taking good care of yourself and eating a healthy diet. Having gynecomastia is a common occurrence in men so there is nothing to be ashamed of considering it usually goes away on its own
Mayo Clinic Staff, “Gynecomastia”, Mayo Clinic