Gynecomastia is an increase in the amount of breast gland tissue in men and boys, caused due to an imbalance of the hormones testosterone and estrogen. Gynecomastia can affect both or one breasts, or unevenly.
Newborns, boys who are in puberty, and older men can have gynecomastia as a result of changes in hormone levels. However, other causes exist, as well.
Gynecomastia is not a severe problem, but it is tough to cope with the condition. Men and boys with gynecomastia may have pain in their breasts and may feel embarrassed.
Gynecomastia may disappear by itself. If it continues, medication or surgery can help. People who are likely to get gynecomastia include:
- Old age
- Obese or overweight
- People who use anabolic steroids or androgens to improve athletic performance
- Have specific health problems, such as liver and kidney disease hormonally active tumors, thyroid disease, and Klinefelter syndrome.
Gynecomastia occurs because of a decrease in the amount of the hormone testosterone compared with estrogen. The reduction is due to conditions that block the effects of testosterone, minimize testosterone, or may increase your estrogen level.
Hormones like testosterone and estrogen control sex characteristics in both men and women. Testosterone creates male traits, such as muscle mass and body hair. Estrogen controls female aspects, including the growth of breasts.
Many people think of estrogen hormone as a female hormone, but men also produce it — though generally in less amount. Male estrogen levels that are very high or are not balanced with testosterone hormone levels can cause gynecomastia.
Symptoms of Gynecomastia
Your first sign of gynecomastia can be a lump of fatty tissue below the nipple. Sometimes this lump is sore or tender.
This may make you worry that you have breast cancer, which does happen to some men. Gynecomastia is not a sign of cancer, but your doctor may run tests to rule it out.
Swelling of the breasts can happen unevenly, with one becoming larger than the other one. You may get breast tenderness.
Consult your doctor if you notice that your breasts contain swelling, are painful or tender, or a discharge from the nipple occurs in one or both breasts.
How can you get rid of Gynecomastia?
Many cases of gynecomastia can be solved over time without treatment. If gynecomastia occurs due to an underlying condition, such as hypogonadism, cirrhosis, or malnutrition, that condition may require treatment.
If you're taking medications that may cause gynecomastia, your doctor can recommend avoiding them or substituting them with another medicine.
In adolescents with no apparent reason for gynecomastia other than regular hormone changes at the time of puberty, the doctor can recommend periodic reevaluations. It can occur every three to six months to check if the condition gets better on its own.
Gynecomastia disappears without treatment in less than two years. Treatment may be required if gynecomastia doesn't improve on its own or if it causes pain, tenderness, or embarrassment.
How can you Prevent Gynecomastia?
There are some steps you can take to decrease the risk of getting gynecomastia. They involve things such as:
- Don't use illicit or recreational drugs, like androgens, amphetamines, anabolic steroids, marijuana, or heroin
- Don't consume alcohol or drink moderately
- Go over your medicine list with the doctor. If any of your medications may cause gynecomastia, ask if there are substitutes
- Do daily exercise if you are overweight
Gynecomastia can impact your mental health. You may feel embarrassed or feel depressed. There are things you can do to control these feelings.
Consult your doctor about how gynecomastia is making you feel. They may suggest a mental health professional who can help you in controlling any mental health issues you may get.
Talk to your family and friends. They know you best and can provide you with the emotional backing you require.
Support groups can help, as well. You'll have a chance to talk to people who understand what you're going through. Consult your doctor for help in finding groups that you can speak with.