Gynecomastia is a condition of excessive development or enlargement of breast tissue in men or boys. It is caused by an imbalance between the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen, where estrogen causes breast tissue to grow. All men produce some estrogen, but they generally have much higher levels of testosterone, which prevents the growth of breast tissue. With gynecomastia, the tissue inside the mammary glands grows.
Gynecomastia can occur during early childhood, puberty, or old age (60 years or older), which may be a normal change. Men can also have gynecomastia due to hormonal changes or side effects of medications. It can occur in one or both breasts. Pseudogynecomastia is caused by obesity and an increased amount of fat in breast tissue, but not by an increase in gland tissue. Puberty is the leading cause of gynecomastia in adolescent boys.
Those involved in puberty can get out of balance and cause gynecomastia. Gynecomastia, or male breast enlargement, affects 40 to 50 percent of men at some point in their lives. Drugs and chemicals that cause a decrease in testosterone levels can also cause gynecomastia. Obesity can cause the male body to generate more estrogen, causing breast tissue to swell and causing gynecomastia. Clinically, gynecomastia is diagnosed by finding subareolar breast tissue of 2 cm in diameter or more.
For many people, the first sign of gynecomastia is an initial lump of tissue around the nipple that feels firm or rubbery. If gynecomastia is severe and of recent onset, medical therapy may be attempted and, if it is not effective, glandular tissue may be surgically removed. Even though it's only a temporary change for most teens, some men with gynecomastia may feel embarrassed or self-conscious about their appearance. Gaining too much weight, using steroids, or taking medications that affect testosterone levels can cause gynecomastia to return. Learn about the options available for treating gynecomastia without surgery, including lifestyle and diet changes. Surgery should also be postponed until the underlying cause of gynecomastia has been resolved or treated.