What causes breast enlargement in men? 8 possible conditions
Breast enlargement in men is called gynecomastia. Gynecomastia can occur during early childhood or puberty. Older men can also suffer from gynecomastia due to hormonal changes or medication side effects. Breast swelling can also result from abnormal growths within the breast muscles or tissue or from an injury to the breast. Most cases of gynecomastia do not require treatment. However, the condition can affect self-esteem and cause sufferers to withdraw from public activities. Gynecomastia is treatable with medication, surgery or by discontinuing use of certain medications or illegal substances.
A decrease in the hormone testosterone or an increase in the hormone estrogen cause most cases of breast enlargement in men. These hormone fluctuations can affect infants, children entering puberty, and older men for a variety of reasons.
Andropause is a phase in a man’s life that is similar to menopause in a woman’s. During andropause, the body’s production of male sex hormones, especially testosterone declines, over several years. This usually occurs around middle age. The resulting hormone imbalance may cause breast swelling, hair loss, and insomnia.
Although boys’ bodies produce androgens (male sex hormones), they also produce the female hormone estrogen. When entering puberty, adolescents may produce more estrogen than androgens. This can result in swollen breast tissue. The condition is usually temporary and subsides as the hormone levels rebalance.
Infants may develop gynecomastia when drinking their mothers’ breast milk. The hormone estrogen is present in breast milk, so nursing babies may experience a slight increase in the level of the hormone. This can result in breast swelling.
Drugs such as steroids and amphetamines can cause estrogen levels to increase slightly. This can result in swollen breasts.
The symptoms of gynecomastia include:
- swollen breasts
- breast discharge
- breast tenderness
Depending on the cause, additional symptoms may be present. If you have symptoms of male breast enlargement, contact your doctor so that he or she can determine the cause of your condition.
To determine the cause of your swollen breasts, your physician will ask questions about your medical history and your family’s medical history. He or she will also physically examine your breasts and genitals.
If the cause of your condition is not clear, your physician will order blood tests to check your hormone levels and a mammogram (breast X-ray) to view your breast tissue and check for any abnormal growths. In some cases, further tests such as ultrasounds, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, computed tomography (CT) scans, X-rays, or biopsies may be necessary.
Gynecomastia usually requires no treatment and goes away on its own. However, if it results from an underlying medical condition, that condition must be treated to resolve the breast enlargement.
In cases of painful gynecomastia, medications or surgery may be used to correct the condition.
Liposuction can be used to remove excess breast fat and reduce the size of the breasts. In cases where swollen tissue is to blame, your physician may suggest a mastectomy, a surgery to remove the excess tissue.
The drugs tamoxifen and raloxifene can treat breast enlargement in men The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved these drugs o treat breast cancer, but research has shown that they are effective in treating some cases of gynecomastia.
Gynecomastia may cause you to feel embarrassed or self-conscious. If you feel that it is making you depressed or if you are feeling too self-conscious to take part in your normal activities, speak to your doctor or to a counselor. It may also help to talk with other men who have the condition in a support-group setting.
- I’m a Guy...So How Come I’m Developing Breasts?. (n.d.). TeensHealth. Retrieved April 08, 2012, from http://kidshealth.org/teen/sexual_health/guys/boybrst.html
- Gynecomastia. (December 21, 2010). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved April 08, 2012, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/gynecomastia/DS00850/DSECTION=symptoms
- Male Menopause: Myth or Reality?. (July 23, 2011). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved April 08, 2012, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/male-menopause/MC00058
See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.
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