What is Gynecomastia?
Gynecomastia is a medical condition in which there is excess growth of breast tissue (not fat tissue) in males. It results in the development of abnormally large breasts in males.
How does it look like?
Initially, it may look like a small lump beneath the nipple. This lump can be tender. It may be present on one breast or both breasts. There may be a difference in the size of both breasts. One may look larger than the other. It is also seen in some newborns which may be associated with milky discharge, a condition known as galactorrhea. This condition may last for a few weeks up to 1 year.
Is Gynecomastia dangerous?
Usually, Gynecomastia is harmless but it may cause embarrassment in males. Men with enlarged breasts have an increased risk of breast cancer. Although Breast cancer in men is rare.
What are the various Signs of Breast Cancer?
Various signs of breast cancer include:
- One-sided breast growth
- Hard breast lump
- Tender skin over the breast
- Bloody discharge from the nipple
If you notice above mentioned signs then you should consult your doctor at the earliest.
What are the causes of Gynecomastia?
Gynecomastia results from an imbalance of hormones in males. These hormones are testosterone (male hormone) and estrogen (female hormone). Both these hormones are naturally present in males. Gynecomastia occurs when there is a change in the level of these hormones or even when the hormone levels are normal but the body responds to them differently.
Breast growth is also seen in newborns when they are exposed to estrogen from the mother. Half of the boy babies are born with enlarged breasts. These enlarged breasts are known as breast buds which normally go away within 6 months. It can last longer in some cases.
Breast enlargement is also seen in teenagers during puberty. It occurs due to normal hormonal changes. It usually goes away in 6 months to 2 years. Breast growth may be seen in old age due to hormonal changes. Breast enlargement is more commonly seen in overweight or obese men and in men age 50yrs and older.
Which medical conditions are associated with Gynecomastia or Breast enlargement in males?
- Chronic Kidney Disease and patients on dialysis
- Chronic liver disease
- Overweight or Obesity
- High estrogen levels and low testosterone levels
- Thyroid Problems
- Certain Genetic defects
- Tumours (like tumour of the pituitary gland, called prolactinoma)
Which medicines and treatments can cause Gynecomastia or Breast enlargement in males?
Some medicines and treatments that can cause breast growth in men include:
- Heart medicines, such as spironolactone, digoxin, amiodarone, and calcium channel blockers
- Antibiotics such as metronidazole
- Hormone treatment for prostate cancer, such as flutamide, or for enlarged prostates, such as finasteride, bicalutamide
- Cancer chemotherapy
- HIV/AIDS medicines
- Radiation treatment of the testicles
- Corticosteroids and anabolic steroids (used by bodybuilders and powerlifters)
- Estrogen (including those in soy products)
- Antacids such as cimetidine or proton pump inhibitors
- Anti-anxiety medicines, such as diazepam
- Antifungal medicines, such as ketoconazole
- Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline
- Herbals such as lavender, tea tree oil, and Dong Quai
Can Substance Abuse cause Gynecomastia or Breast enlargement in males?
Yes, using following substances can cause cause Gynecomastia or Breast enlargement in males:
What tests are done for Gynecomastia?
Your doctor will take your history and will do the physical examination. Different tests may be needed to rule out the underlying medical condition. These include:
- Blood hormone level profile
- Liver and kidney function tests
- Breast ultrasound
What treatment options are available for Gynecomastia?
Breast growth in newborns and young boys don’t need any treatment and it often goes away on its own.
You may need treatment if gynecomastia is due to some underlying medical condition. You doctor will ask you to stop taking medicines or anabolic steroids if they are causing gynecomastia. Don’t stop medicines on your own. Always consult your doctor before abruptly stopping any medicine. You may need hormonal therapy to block the action of estrogen hormone. If hormonal therapy fails to reduce breast tissue size then your doctor will advise you to go for Breast reduction surgery or liposuction.