Breast enlargement with increased breast gland tissue in males is called gynecomastia. It can occur naturally or be caused by hormones or medications. Most cases of gynecomastia don’t require treatment, though the condition may cause distress due to esthetic concerns.
Gynecomastia can occur during early childhood, puberty, or older age (60 years and older), which can be a typical change.
Males can also have gynecomastia due to hormonal changes or medication side effects. It can happen to one or both breasts. It is different than pseudogynecomastia, which is caused by more fat in the breast tissue rather than increased gland tissue.
Most cases of gynecomastia don’t require treatment. However, for cosmetic reasons, the condition could affect your self-esteem and cause you to withdraw from public activities.
If you find the symptoms distressing, you may wish to speak to your doctor as there are medications that can help treat gynecomastia. In addition, stopping the use of any medications that may be causing the symptoms can help. In some cases, you can have surgery to remove the tissue.
Are sex and gender the same thing?
People often use the terms sex and gender interchangeably, but they have different meanings:
- “Sex” refers to the physical characteristics that differentiate male, female, and intersex bodies.
- “Gender” refers to a person’s identity and how they feel inside. Examples include man, woman, nonbinary, agender, bigender, genderfluid, pangender, and trans. A person’s gender identity may be different from the sex they were assigned at birth
A decrease in the hormone testosterone, usually with an increase in the hormone estrogen, causes most cases of gynecomastia.
These hormone fluctuations can be typical at different phases of life and can affect infants, children entering puberty, and older males.
This usually occurs around middle age. The resulting hormone imbalance may cause gynecomastia, hair loss, and insomnia.
Although adolescent males’ bodies produce androgens (male sex hormones), they also produce the female hormone estrogen.
About 60-75% of cases occur in adolescence.
Breast milk or chest milk
Infants may develop gynecomastia when breastfeeding or chestfeeding. The hormone estrogen is present in breast milk so nursing babies may experience a slight increase in their levels of estrogen.
Drugs such as steroids and amphetamines can cause estrogen levels to increase slightly. This can result in gynecomastia. Medications may be responsible for as many as
Other medical conditions
Less common causes of gynecomastia include:
The symptoms of gynecomastia
- swollen breasts
- breast discharge
- breast tenderness
Depending on the cause, there may be other symptoms as well. If you have symptoms of gynecomastia, contact your doctor so they can determine the cause of your condition.
To determine why you have developed swollen breasts, your doctor will ask questions about your medical history and your family’s medical history. They will also physically examine your chest and genitals. In gynecomastia, the breast tissue is greater than
If the cause of your condition isn’t clear, your doctor may order blood tests to check your hormone levels and a mammogram or ultrasound to view your breast tissue and check for any abnormal growth. In some cases, further tests such as MRI scans, CT scans, X-rays, or biopsies may be necessary.
Medications or surgery
- Surgery: This can be used to remove excess breast fat and glandular tissue. In cases where swollen tissue is to blame, your doctor may suggest a mastectomy, a surgery to remove excess tissue.
- Medications: A doctor may prescribe medications that affect hormone levels, such as tamoxifen (Soltamox) and raloxifene (Evista).
- Counseling: Gynecomastia may cause you to feel self-conscious. If you feel it’s making you depressed or are too self-conscious to participate in your typical activities, speak to your doctor or a counselor. It may also help to talk with other males who have the condition in a support group setting.
Here you’ll find additional answers to questions about gynecomastia.
Can gynecomastia go away?
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 symptoms.
What happens if gynecomastia is not treated?
Can increasing testosterone get rid of gynecomastia?
One option for treatment does involve medications that increase the levels of testosterone. However, a doctor would be best equipped to tell you if this is the best course for you.
Gynecomastia can occur in males of any age. Talking with a doctor can help you discover the underlying cause of gynecomastia.
Depending on the cause, you have several treatment options and managing the condition.