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What is Gynecomastia?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Gynecomastia is a condition in which males experience swelling in the tissues of the breasts. Both men and boys can develop this type of condition. Often, the origin of the enlarged breasts has to do with some type of imbalance between the levels of testosterone and estrogen in the system. Fortunately, there are several ways to treat this condition and reduce the swelling.

There are a few common signs that gynecomastia is in the process of developing. The most obvious is a noticeable change in the size of the breasts. However, many men and boys who suffer with this condition also experience increased sensitivity along the surface of the breasts, especially the nipples. The sensitivity may be so pronounced that even wearing a shirt causes a great deal of discomfort. In some cases, gynecomastia can also cause the appearance of discharge from the nipples.

There are several reasons why gynecomastia may develop. The condition may come about because medication has made changes in the levels of estrogen and testosterone in the body. In like manner, certain health conditions, like liver problems or hyperthyroidism, can negatively impact the natural balance of testosterone and estrogen in males, leading to the enlargement of the breast tissue. During puberty, the normal hormonal changes that take place may cause some breast enlargement for a short period of time.

In many cases, treating gynecomastia involves identifying the root cause for the hormonal imbalance and treating that underlying problem. Should medication be the origin of the problem, adjusting the dosage or changing to a different medication altogether may cause the swelling in the breasts to go away over time. If a health issue has led to the imbalance, treating the person with hormone injections may help to restore normal amounts of testosterone in the system, and possibly reverse the abnormal breast growth.

However, there is also the possibility that surgery may be required to deal with the presence of gynecomastia. This can be the case when Klinefelter syndrome or a problem with the pituitary gland is found. The presence of tumors is also grounds for using surgery to remove swollen breast tissue. The surgery itself may involve simple liposuction, which removes some of the breast fat, but does not affect the tissue itself. In more serious situations, a mastectomy may be required to actually remove a portion of the swollen breast tissue, as well as any tumor that may be present.

For many men and boys, surgery is not required. Often, addressing the underlying cause for the hormone imbalance and correcting the problem is enough to stop the enlargement of breast tissue. Once a proper balance of hormones is restored, there is a good chance that the swollen tissue will begin to shrink back to normal proportions. Surgery is only recommended in situations where various treatments fail to shrink the tissue back to normal and the male is uncomfortable with his appearance.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including The Health Board, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By literally45 — On Mar 04, 2014

@ddljohn-- You will know when you have gynecomastia because your breasts will become very tender and painful.

I used to think that gynecomastia is very common and normal because many overweight men and elderly men have it. But apparently, it's not normal. And simply the appearance of larger breasts isn't enough to diagnose gynecomastia. Doctors have to run tests like an ultrasonography or a biopsy to diagnose it. Sometimes muscle overgrowth or breast cysts create the appearance of gynecomastia as well.

By SteamLouis — On Mar 03, 2014

@ddljohn-- Those are excellent questions, I'm glad you asked them because many men wonder the same.

There are definitely early signs and symptoms of gynecomastia that you can watch out for before the breast enlargement occurs. If you are taking a medication that can cause gynecomastia or hormonal imbalances as a side effect, it's a good idea to know these signs. They are breast or nipple itchiness, sensitivity and puffiness. Some men also say that they developed a lump or lumps in their breast at the onset of gynecomastia.

If you have these symptoms, talk to your doctor. If you can take precautions early, you can prevent the major symptom of gynecomastia which is breast enlargement. Breast enlargement does not necessarily reverse even after the underlying causes are treated. So if it can be prevented, that will be best.

By ddljohn — On Mar 03, 2014

I know that gynecomastia in men causes enlarged breasts. But are there other earlier symptoms of the condition that we can take notice of before the breasts grow? Or do all of the symptoms appear at once?

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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