Gynecomastia is the growth of male breast tissue, affecting one or both breasts. Children, young boys and men can develop gynecomastia from changes in hormone levels as well as from outside factors such as ingesting certain medications. Gynecomastia is not a life-threatening condition, but it can lead to emotional suffering caused by embarrassment and changes in self-image.
What are the symptoms of Gynecomastia?
The signs and symptoms of gynecomastia are pretty straight forward and include:
- Growth of male breasts
- caused by the swelling of breast gland tissue
- Tenderness or discomfort
- Nipple discharge
The condition can affect one or both breasts. Any male who experiences one or more of these symptoms should consult a doctor immediately.
What causes Gynecomastia?
Gynecomastia is triggered by changes in hormone levels that result in a decrease in testosterone. Several different factors may result in the development of this condition, including:
- Natural changes in hormones
- Various medications (to see a list of the prescription and over-the-counter medications that may result in the development of gynecomastia, click here).
- Certain health conditions such as hypogonadism, aging, tumors, hyperthyroidism, kidney failure, liver failure and malnutrition.
- Use of certain herbal products
How is a diagnosis made?
If you believe you have gynecomastia, your doctor may conduct several tests to determine the cause of the condition. He or she may ask you questions about your medical history as well as your family history to determine what conditions run in your family. You will also need to undergo a physical exam that will include a look at the breast tissue, abdomen and possibly genitals.
Tests that may be ordered include:
- Blood test
- Computerized tomography (CT) scans
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans
- Ultrasound of the testicles
Testing needs to be conducted to make sure the swelling is being caused by gynecomastia and not another condition such as breast cancer, abscess or fatty breast tissue. If you are diagnosed with one of these conditions, treatment will be different.
How is Gynecomastia treated?
Treatment will depend on what is causing the problem. If your gynecomastia is linked to use of a medication, your doctor may take you off the medication and wait a few weeks or months to see if it goes away on its own. If your condition is caused by a condition such as hypogonadism, however, you may need to treat that specific problem.
In many cases, gynecomastia will go away on its own. But, if it doesn't you may be required to take medications or undergo a surgical procedure. Medications used to treat breast cancer may be prescribed. Surgical procedures include:
- Mastectomy, which is a procedure used to remove breast gland tissue. This procedure usually involves very tiny incisions.
- Liposuction, which is a procedure to remove breast fat instead of the actual breast gland tissue.
Are there complications associated with gynecomastia?
Gynecomastia is not a serious condition, but it can lead to emotional and psychological problems, particularly for young boys who may feel embarrassed or get teased by other kids.
Can I get help for this condition?
Yes. If your condition can be linked to a certain medication, you may be eligible for financial compensation. View our section on gynecomastia lawsuits for more information.