Gynecomastia- Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

Gynecomastia describes enlarged or overdeveloped breasts in men. Men at any age group can have the occurrence of this condition. It can develop in newborns or during puberty.

Men between the ages of 50 and 80 can also develop this condition and It is caused by an imbalance in your testosterone and estrogen levels. The excess of estrogen (female hormone) leads to the swelling of the breast. It can affect both the breasts and sometimes only one. 

Causes of Gynecomastia

Besides hormone imbalance, some diseases and medications can also be the reasons for the occurrence of Gynecomastia. Some of the reasons are as follows:

  1. Low levels of testosterone
  2. Obesity
  3. Malnutrition 
  4. Hyperthyroidism
  5. Liver Cirrhosis
  6. Use of Antibiotics
  7. Anti-anxiety and heartburn drugs
  8. Corticosteroids and Opioids
  9. Excessive alcohol consumption
  10. Some of the herbs like lavender, tea tree oil, and Dong Quai and herbal products like soaps, shampoos, and body lotions.

In men, a condition of False or pseudo gynecomastia caused by fat deposits in the chest mimics female breasts. In such instances, a well-balanced and healthy diet combined with a muscle-strengthening chest exercise routine can help.

However, these fat pockets are often resistant to any kind of strict diet and vigorous exercise routine hence they persist beyond your hard work.

Symptoms of Gynecomastia

  • Swelling can be seen in either one or both breasts. It could be uniform or uneven growth concerning the nipple. It could have firm, rubbery feeling. In some cases, growth will be seen just behind the nipple.
  • The breasts and nipple may be tender and painful when touched.
  • During puberty, boys experience a breast bud in one or both that may continue for 2 more years. Any medical history during this period should also be considered.
  • Development of secondary sexual features.
  • Any disturbance in sexual functions like reduced libido and erectile dysfunction.
  • In rare cases, swelling can be caused by breast abscess. In this case, it will be painful, reddish, and hot to touch. They even develop a fever and chillness.

When evaluating the symptoms, it is very important to differentiate between Gynecomastia and male breast cancer. In cancer usually, one breast is affected and the tissue won’t be hard or firm. Nipple discharge, an indentation of the skin, nipple retraction and enlarged lymph nodes under the arms are also associated with cancer.  

At Thomson Breast Centre the doctors or experts review the medical history of the patients to analyze the various causes such as weight loss, fatigue, hair loss, mood swings, discoloration of the skin, etc that could have triggered Gynecomastia. Though it is not a life-threatening condition, there are several treatment options available for patients.


Due to the lack of extensive research at present, the effectiveness of medication for this condition cannot be ensured.

  • Tamoxifen, raloxifene (Evista) and Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs) are used to treat painful Gynecomastia.
  • For adult men with low testosterone levels, testosterone replacement therapy is found to be effective.

There are surgical methods to remove excess breast tissues, in case the medications are not effective in treating the condition.

  1. Liposuction: In this method, a small tube-shaped device removes excess breast fat through a small incision made around the chest or within the armpit. Patients respond very well to liposuction, especially in pseudo gynecomastia. Recovery is relatively quick and people return to work after several days. It is advised not to do any kind of vigorous exercise for about three weeks after liposuction and wearing a compression garment will help to reduce swelling. Risks and complications involved in liposuction are as follows.
  • Heart and kidney problems
  • Fat embolism
  • Accumulation of fluid
  • Infection
  • Lidocaine (a local anesthetic) toxicity
  • Internal rupture
  • Irregularities in shape
  1. Mastectomy: In more severe cases of Gynecomastia, a subcutaneous mastectomy is performed to remove the breast gland through a small incision. Though the risk level is low in this method, there are certain complications too as given below.
  • Bleeding
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Infection
  • Stiffness and joint pain
  • Numbness
  • Hematoma at the surgical site
  • Hard scar tissues at the surgical site

Gynecomastia is not a serious issue associated with long-term problems, but patients diagnosed with this condition tend to develop at around five times the risk of developing male breast cancer compared to the general population. 

The main reasons being the hormonal changes that result in Gynecomastia also increase the risk of developing male breast cancer. If a patient is still bothered about the symptoms that cause embarrassment, then it can hurt their self- confidence and social life, consulting a physician can help you deal with it the right way!

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