Gynecomastia is the abnormal enlargement of both of the male breasts. It is caused by the growth of the male breasts’ gland tissue due to an imbalance between estrogen and androgen hormones; where estrogen is much higher than usual and androgen is much lower). Gynecomastia is correlated with increased breast and testicular cancer rates because of the associated hormonal imbalances; and it can also be a source of embarrassment and even physical pain. It is the most common benign disorder to affect male’s breasts. So it is important know the signs, symptoms, common causes, associated risk factors, and treatment and management options.
What exactly is Gynecomastia?
Usually, when people talk about male breasts, they are likely just talking excess fat in your chest; which is the type of fat can be cured by a good diet and exercise. This type of breasts growth can generate similar shame that is produced by gynecomastia, but it is not the same disease. Sometimes, when people talk about male breasts, they are thinking of male breast cancer, which is usually only associated with one of breast. True gynecomastia, however affects both breasts and it is not associated with fat tissue or obesity. Instead, it is caused by the growth of other breast tissues, which can cause enlargement and tenderness.
In fact, someone who has gynecomastia will have breasts that often develop in the same way that they would for pubescent females. This means that women are not technically affected by it; although they can develop a few similar conditions in their breasts.
What kind of things can cause it?
Gynecomastia can be a side effect of certain medications and drugs. Studies have linked gynecomastia with use or abuse of alcohol, narcotics, marijuana, methadone, aldosterone, HIV drugs, chemotherapy, hormone treatment for prostate cancer, heartburn drugs, ulcer medication, calcium channel blockers and other hypertension medications, antifungal medications, and many antibiotics. Sometimes, diseases such as kidney failure, liver disease, tumors, low testosterone levels, and other hormonal problems can induce gynecomastia. Some studies tentatively suggest that biological males who have gender dysphoria are also at high risk. Gynecomastia can also just arise as a result of hormone changes associated with infants males affected by their mother’s estrogen, pubescent males, malnourished males, and aging males. In about 25% of cases, the cause is actually completely unknown.
What are the symptoms?
The only common physiological symptom is simply enlarged breasts. Pain, tenderness, and abscesses are also possible, but more rare. Men with breasts also tend to experience many psychological side effects. They often report that dealing with breasts can be frustrating and annoying. The breasts can also be a source of a lot of shame and embarrassment, especially if people are explicitly making fun of you. For example, is it common for people to refer to male breasts as “moobs”, which simply serves to further shame those who do not like their breasts. Some men do not experience explicit antagonism because of their breasts. But they attribute their self-consciousness to the fact that society dictates that breasts are feminine. Some of their problems are compared to transgender men who have gender dysphoria and, therefore, do not like the body they were born with.
Those who developed breasts during puberty also tend to experience low self-esteem due to simultaneous confidence changes that are often associated with normal puberty. Men whose breasts are side effect of a medication or a disease can sometimes have an easier time managing the shame because they often have simple way of explaining away their breasts in order to excuse to their less than masculine body (unlike men who simply develop breasts naturally). Some men have less of a problem with their breasts because they report that they were never particularly attached to their masculine presentation in the first place. These men are usually privileged enough to live in a community that does not enforce strict traditional gender roles.
How long does it last?
If the hormonal imbalance that was the underlying cause of gynecomastia, then the symptoms can subside once your hormones stabilize. If it was caused by a drug, going off the drug can have immediate positive effects. Likewise, if it was caused by a curable disease, once you are cured, the side effects of having enlarged breasts can also go away. Sometimes, however, gynecomastia persists, which might require some sort of medical intervention.
Can doctors treat it?
There are some drugs and medications that can work best when administered within the first two years of experiencing symptoms. Radiation therapy has also been shown to be effective. However, no FDA approved drug therapies exist to treat gynecomastia. If your gynecomastia persists, you either need to adjust or get a plastic surgeon to perform breast reduction surgery in order to remove the excess breast tissue.
How can you manage symptoms?
You can try exercises commonly used to diminish breast fat in order to make the gynecomastia less pronounced. But to lose chest fat, you also need to lose weight on the rest of your body. You can try using the same exercises that often cause women to have flatter chests. Examples of effective exercises include high knees, push-ups, jumping jacks, bench presses, pull-ups, planks, squats, and swimming and water exercises. You can also try to reduce breast fat by eating foods that generally increase metabolism such as cacao, quinoa, green tea, leafy vegetables, chilli peppers, eggs, chia, and beans. To manage the psychological symptoms such as shame and low self-esteem, men report that support groups are very beneficial. Much of the shame stems the knowledge that society believes that breasts are for women only. Therefore, finding other men who are going through the same thing can be very psychologically beneficial.
If you notice changes in your breast, consult your doctor. You may have gynecomastia or a disease associated with it. While male breasts may not necessarily be cause to worry, it can generate a lot of shame for many men. So you may want to consider finding ways of managing or treating symptoms.