Men and women both have nipples, but men generally don’t have anything that would be called breasts – unless they have a condition known as gynecomastia. Also known as “man boobs,” gynecomastia can be upsetting and difficult for men to cope with. In this article we’ll explain what gynecomastia is, how to treat it, and how to prevent gynecomastia.
What is Gynecomastia?
Gynecomastia is the medical term for enlargement or swelling of breast tissue in men. It may occur on either side or on both sides.
The cause of gynecomastia is an imbalance of hormones, primarily testosterone and estrogen. While all men have some estrogen – and all women have some testosterone – an imbalance can be a problem. Estrogen is the hormone that controls female sexual traits, including the formation and growth of breasts.
Men are most likely to experience gynecomastia at three times of life.
- Immediately after birth, when boys are still influenced by the estrogen they were exposed to while in their mothers’ wombs.
- At puberty when their hormones are changing rapidly.
- At mid-life and onward. Approximately one in four men experience gynecomastia in middle age.
In babies and pubescent males, gynecomastia typically resolves itself. If it doesn’t, then treatment may be necessary to address the underlying hormonal imbalance.
Other Causes of Gynecomastia
In addition to an imbalance of testosterone and estrogen, there are other potential causes of gynecomastia.
- Improper nutrition
- Liver disease
- Kidney failure
- Testicular or adrenal tumors
- Certain drugs, including anabolic steroids, estrogens, Finasteride, Spironolactone, digoxin, amiodarone, calcium channel blockers, Cimetidine, proton pump inhibitors, diazepam, ketoconazole, metronidazole, human chorionic gonadotropin, and street drugs such as alcohol, amphetamines, heroin, and marijuana
It’s important to see your doctor to determine the underlying cause of gynecomastia.
Before you can get rid of man boobs, you need to get a formal diagnosis to determine the right gynecomastia treatment. Your doctor will perform a physical exam of your breast tissue to make the diagnosis.
Your doctor may order an MRI or ultrasound to rule out serious disease. They may also order a biopsy of breast tissue if any masses are detected.
Since some drugs may cause gynecomastia, steroids, and other drugs you take should be disclosed to your doctor. Once gynecomastia has been confirmed as a diagnosis, you can move forward with treatment to lose man boobs for good.
Gynecomastia Treatment Options
Whether you have mild or severe gynecomastia, your doctor will be able to prescribe a treatment option that’s right for you.
In many cases, gynecomastia will resolve on its own. Your doctor may recommend that you see a nutritionist to make dietary changes that can help. If an imbalance of testosterone and estrogen is detected, your primary care physician may refer you to an endocrinologist.
Another option may involve re-evaluating your existing medications and prescribing alternatives to restore your hormonal balance and allow your gynecomastia to resolve itself. It may take some trial and error to arrive at the right mix of medications for your body.
Some boys and men may have a difficult time coping with the emotions associated with gynecomastia. Your doctor may recommend therapy or counseling to help you.
Surgery is almost never used to treat gynecomastia. In fact, it is only an option if you have severe gynecomastia pain and discomfort.
How to Prevent Gynecomastia
Gynecomastia prevention is a priority if you are uncomfortable with the idea of having man boobs. Some recommendations include:
- Ceasing the use of any recreational or illicit drugs, including anabolic steroid, androgens, amphetamines, heroin, or marijuana.
- Avoiding alcohol or, at the very least, limiting your intake of alcoholic beverages.
- Be proactive about reviewing your medications. If you don’t currently have gynecomastia but you are taking one of the medications we listed, you may want to review those medications with your doctor now as a preventive measure.
In most cases, gynecomastia is not a serious condition and it will often resolve on its own. Remember, it is normal for men to have some estrogen and well have breast tissue. With some simple treatments or preventive measures, you can feel good about the way you look and prevent gynecomastia from being a problem in the future.