The human body can be pretty embarrassing sometimes. Changes that occur in the body over time can cause you to look in the mirror one day and wonder what the heck happened. For some guys, gynecomastia is one of the more embarrassing things that can happen.
Gynecomastia is the medical term for the development of male breasts or “man boobs,” and the problem is more common than you might think. It can affect men and boys alike, and has nothing to do with “how much of a man you are.”
If you’re concerned about male breasts, the good news is that treatment is available. Here’s everything you need to know about gynecomastia–including what you can do about it.
Why Do Some Men Develop Gynecomastia?
Guys develop gynecomastia when they have an excessive amount of glandular tissue in the breasts. The condition usually develops when a guy’s hormones get out of balance. When the amount of estrogen in a guy’s body gets too high compared to the amount of testosterone, breast tissue can enlarge and feminize the chest.
There are a few things worth knowing about estrogen. One is that although people associate it with women and women do have more estrogen in their bodies than man, both men and women have some amount of the hormone. It’s not weird or unusual for a guy to have estrogen–it’s perfectly normal.
When Do Men and Boys Get Gynecomastia?
Usually, estrogen levels in men are relatively low, especially in comparison to testosterone. But there are three distinct periods of life when estrogen levels might creep up temporarily.
One period is right after a male infant is born, when the baby still has estrogen from his mom’s body in his system. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 percent of all male babies are born with gynecomastia. They’re too young to care, however, and the condition usually resolves on its own a few weeks after birth, as the mom’s estrogen wears off.
The second period is during puberty, when an adolescent’s hormones are likely to be going wild, fluctuating up and down on any given day. Thanks to those raging hormones, around half of all teenage boys develop some amount of gynecomastia. The bad news is that the condition tends to occur in a time of life when kids (and teasing) can be at their worst. The good news is that the condition usually clears up on its by the end of puberty.
The third phase of life when gynecomastia is likely to occur is when a man is older, usually around 5o or above. It is also possible for younger adult men to develop the condition.
While natural hormone fluctuations are largely to blame for gynecomastia in teens and infants, they’re less likely to be responsible for the condition in adult males. In adults, external factors, such as drug and alcohol use or abuse, medical conditions and some medicines or herbal supplements are more likely to be the cause of gynecomastia.
Can You Prevent Gynecomastia?
In some cases, you might be able to prevent gynecomastia from developing. For example, avoiding certain medications or the use of illegal drugs can reduce your chances of developing the condition. The same is true for avoiding steroids. Alcohol use can also contribute to gynecomastia. If you drink a lot or more than the recommended amount, it can be worthwhile to cut back. Some men might need to avoid alcohol altogether.
If you think a medical condition, such as a thyroid problem or liver or kidney problem is contributing to the development of male breast tissue, treating the condition might improve your gynecomastia symptoms or keep them from getting worse.
Treatment Options for Gynecomastia
Usually, treatment for gynecomastia involves surgery. The type of surgery depends on the size of the breasts and the amount of breast tissue present. Men who have what look like male breasts because they have fatty deposits in the chest area might only need to undergo liposuction to remove the fat and create a flatter looking chest.
Men who have enlarged breast tissue will usually have breast surgery to reduce or remove the tissue entirely. Liposuction to remove fat might also be part of the procedure.
Gynecomastia can make you feel self-conscious, but you don’t have to put up with it forever. Dr. Paul Vitenas is a Houston-based plastic surgeon who specializes in breast procedures, including gynecomastia treatment for men. To learn more about your options, call 281-484-0088 to schedule a consultation today.