What Is Gynecomastia?

Posted by Dr. Patrick Proffer on March 13, 2018

Gynecomastia is a condition in which men develop excess breast tissue. The ondition is the result of hormone imbalances in which the body produces too much estrogen, too little androgen, or both. The condition is usually harmless, but it is a source of great stigma for men and can indicate more serious illnesses.

It is difficult to estimate the prevalence of gynecomastia, but some estimates place the prevalence of the condition as high as 69% in teens and 65% in older males, though most of these cases are mild.

What Causes Gynecomastia?

A variety of different factors can cause men to develop gynecomastia. During puberty, the body regularly experiences changes in hormone levels, leading to mild cases of the disorder; this is why gynecomastia is so common in teenage boys.

Similarly, as men age, their bodies produce less testosterone and more estrogen-producing adipose tissue; elderly men thus have high rates of the disease. Another common source is the use of anabolic steroids, particularly those that contain androgens or progesterone, which can cause the body to produce more estrogen or become more receptive to the estrogen it already produces.

Most serious causes of the condition include testicular cancer, thyroid disorders, liver failure, and tumor growth. Severe cases of gynecomastia, in which the breasts grow to 5 centimeters or greater or contain large or tender lumps, are likely to be the result of these life-threatening conditions.

Gynecomastia itself is usually harmless, but can contribute to male breast cancer, particularly when combined with hormone receptor positive disease. If you experience any of these symptoms for prolonged periods, talk to your doctor about screening for cancer.

Living With Gynecomastia

The most common negative effects of gynecomastia are social and emotional. Men who developed the condition are often labeled "feminine" by their friends and colleagues, or are accused of laziness and overeating.

Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to this stigma, and often experience bullying and social rejection. Thus, even when life-threatening causes have been ruled out, many men and boys are not content to live with their gynecomastia.

Treating Gynecomastia

In many cases, getting rid of gynecomastia does not require medical treatment. Most cases of the condition, particularly among adolescents, disappear within a few years. Dieting and exercise can help reduce excess breast tissue by getting rid of body fat, though they have little effect on nipple swelling. Men who develop gynecomastia as a result of steroid use often recover once they stop using steroids.

For more severe cases of the condition, surgery may be the only option. The medications reduce your body's sensitivity to estrogen and/or the amount of estrogen. In surgery, doctors remove excess fat, glandular tissue and skin from your breasts. This is a commonly performed procedure and usually takes no more than 2 hours, though you may have to return later for additional liposuction.

If you’re concerned you suffer from gynecomastia, Proffer Surgical Associates in Amarillo offers plastic surgery to male patients throughout the Texas Panhandle. Speak with us now to see if gynecomastia surgery with Proffer is right for you.

Want to learn more about the treatment options for gynecomastia? Our Gynecomastia Guide will help you determine if surgery is right for you. 

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Topics: Plastic Surgery, Gynecomastia