Asymptomatic gynecomastia affects 60% to 90% of male infants and 50% to 60% of male adolescents. Up to 70% of men aged 50 to 69 years old also have this condition.
All in all, scientists say that at least 30% of all men will experience gynecomastia during their life. That makes it the most common breast-related condition among the male population.
What exactly is gynecomastia, though, and how do you tell that you have it? Is it something that you should feel concerned about?
We’ll address all these questions and more in this comprehensive guide, so please be sure to read on.
What Is Gynecomastia?
Gynecomastia or manboobs is a non-cancerous enlargement of male breast tissue. An imbalance of two hormones, namely estrogen and testosterone, often causes it. It can affect only one breast, but in some cases, it can affect both.
Manboobs is usually not a severe medical problem, but it can be mentally taxing. Researchers found that many men who have it also experience anxiety and depression. Patients have also reported feeling an extreme embarrassment and even emasculation.
In men who have symptomatic gynecomastia, pain is one of the most common symptoms. Many of these patients also fear that they have breast cancer.
Some cases of the male breast enlargement may go away on their own. If it doesn’t, or it progresses, you should consider seeing a gynecomastia surgeon in San Francisco, CA. You may be a good candidate for gynecomastia surgery.
Is Gynecomastia Due to Fat Build-Up?
Having gynecomastia doesn’t mean that a person has extra fat due to being overweight or obese. It results from “proliferating” or additional breast tissue. As such, losing weight via dieting or doing exercise will not eliminate the extra tissue.
This doesn’t mean that exercise is one of the things you must avoid if you have gynecomastia. Physical activity and a proper diet are essential to your overall health. The thing is, a reduction in the fat may make the remaining breast tissue even more obvious.
“Man boobs” due to excess fat do exist, but it’s a condition separate from gynecomastia. In these cases, it’s pseudogynecomastia enlarging the male breasts. This often occurs due to fat build-up in the breast caused by being overweight or obese.
How Can You Tell That You Have Gynecomastia?
As mentioned above, the majority of patients with gynecomastia are asymptomatic. In people who have symptoms, the most common are pain, swelling, and tenderness of the breasts. Sometimes, these signs can appear in both breasts; in many others, they only affect one breast.
Another symptom is an increase in the size of the areola. This is the pigmented section of the skin that surrounds the nipple. Gynecomastia may cause this part of the breast to grow in diameter.
Nipple discharge is one of the signs of gynecomastia you have to be on the lookout for. The same goes for unusual pain, swelling, and tenderness that don’t go away. If you experience any or all of these, please don’t delay seeing a gynecomastia specialist in San Francisco, CA.
You may also want to head straight to a gynecomastia surgeon if you notice or feel any of these signs. Be sure to visit a board-certified gynecomastia surgeon, though! This way, you can be sure that you’re in the hands of one of the best, most qualified gynecomastia specialists.
How Does Gynecomastia Develop?
In many cases, gynecomastia happens when there’s an imbalance between estrogen and testosterone. Estrogen is the “female” hormone, and it causes the growth of breast tissue. Testosterone is the “male” hormone, and it stops estrogen from enlarging breast tissue.
Both men and women have these two hormones. However, testosterone occurs in higher proportions in men. In females, estrogen is the prevailing sex hormone.
Gynecomastia may occur when the male body produces too low levels of testosterone (T). The thing is, aging does lead to reduced T levels. Every year, T levels in men drop by an average of 1.6%.
As testosterone levels go down, there may not be enough to counter the effects of estrogen. This imbalance may then make the female sex hormone overpower the male one. This may then result in the growth of breast tissue in men.
Other Factors That May Suggest You Have Gynecomastia
Aside from hormonal imbalance, gynecomastia may also result from serious health conditions. These include diseases of the kidney and liver, as well as male hypogonadism. Extreme stress, which can cause your cortisol levels to shoot up, can also be a risk factor.
If you have any of these conditions, and you believe you have gynecomastia, see a San Francisco gynecomastia specialist as soon as you can. You may be a good candidate for gynecomastia surgery to get rid of excess breast tissue.
Here are a few other risk factors that may cause (or have caused) your “moobs.”
In 10% to 25% of gynecomastia cases, medications and drugs are to blame. Spironolactone (Aldactone) and cimetidine (Tagamet) are a couple of examples. However, even Ketoconazole, a drug used as a fungal infection treatment, may also cause it.
Gynecomastia also affects up to 75% of men who receive anti-androgen monotherapy. These are medications and therapies that help to treat prostate cancer. While the treatment itself must continue, there are still ways to prevent moobs.
In any case, if your gynecomastia stems from these drugs, you should talk to your doctor. There may be an alternative to the medications you currently take. You may be able to use substitutes that are less likely to cause moobs.
Do note that steroids and other recreational drugs may also lead to gynecomastia.
Other Risk Factors
Drinking too much alcohol may also lead to a growth in male breasts. One possible reason is that these substances can increase the levels of estrogen in the body.
Consider cutting back or avoiding alcohol to reduce your risks. If you already have extra breast tissue, it’s best also to see a gynecomastia specialist.
Some studies also link marijuana (AKA weed or pot) with enlarged breast tissue in men. It seems that one of the cannabinoids in the plant, namely, THC, lowers testosterone levels. In this way, it may cause hormonal imbalance, which can then lead to gynecomastia.
Note that estrogen is also in certain types of food, occurring as “phytoestrogens.” It’s a fancy way to refer to “plant-produced estrogen.” Some of these include soy, protein products, conventional meat, and dairy.
The Best Way to Confirm If You Have Gynecomastia
Seeing a gynecomastia surgeon in the SF Bay Area should be on your list of priorities in case you have moobs. These doctors are among your best option as they specifically deal with gynecomastia. They not only diagnose the condition but also treat and help manage it.
During your initial consultation, the gynecomastia specialist will ask about your symptoms. It’s best that you give a detailed look into your medical, drug, and family history too. This way, the good doctor can determine if your condition is due to any of these risk factors.
The male breast reduction surgeon will also conduct a thorough physical examination. This includes assessing your breast tissue, abdomen, and genitals.
If there’s an abnormally large, rigid, and immovable lump, the doctor may order a biopsy. This is a vital test that can help the surgeon rule out breast cancer.
You may also have to undergo some other tests to further eliminate other causes. The doctor will especially want these if the signs point to a cyst, benign tumor, mastitis, or hematoma. You may also need blood and imaging tests, such as a breast ultrasound, X-ray, CT or MRI scan, and mammogram.
Removal of Excess Breast Tissue With Surgery
In adolescent gynecomastia patients, it’s possible for the condition to go away in a year or two. However, in about 5% of adolescent cases, the breast tissue remains. In this case, gyno-reduction surgery is a viable treatment option.
In adults with pseudogynecomastia, liposuction may help remove the extra fat. In patients with gynecomastia, an excision surgery helps to remove the excess tissue. Sometimes, patients may need to undergo both types of procedures for the best results.
After the surgery, there will be bruising and swelling in the chest area. However, the surgeon may recommend the use of an elastic pressure garment to help with these. These wearables can help ease the inflammation and some of the discomfort.
It takes about six weeks for surgery patients to go back to their regular routine. Complications are rare, but to ensure your safety, choose a board-certified surgeon.
Don’t Carry the Burden of Gynecomastia on Your Own
As you can see, gynecomastia is such a common condition that afflicts men of all ages. The great news is that it’s treatable.
The most important thing is not to delay seeking help. This way, you can also avoid putting yourself at risk of psychosocial issues.
Have you noticed signs and symptoms of gynecomastia, or do you think you have it? Whether you live in San Francisco, California, or out-of-town, please know that Dr. Miguel Delgado, MD, can help. Reach out to the good doctor’s office now so you can get the guidance and support that you need.