Creating a free account will enable you to subscribe to our daily and weekly email newsletters, as well as customize your reading experience to show only the categories most relevant to you.
Signing up only take a few minutes, so why not give it a try and see what you've been missing out on.
Gynecomastia, informally known as "man boobs", is a common condition in men and boys. The breasts swell and become abnormally large. Gynecomastia is more common in newborn males, boys during puberty, and older men.
In the vast majority of cases, gynecomastia is not a serious problem. However, it may be psychologically difficult to cope with. Apart from affecting self-confidence and causing embarrassment, some men and boys may also experience pain in their breasts.
A study carried out at Boston Children's Hospital and reported in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that gynecomastia negatively affects self-esteem as well as other areas of emotional health in adolescent boys.
Team leader, Dr. Brian I. Labow wrote "Merely having gynecomastia was sufficient to cause significant deficits in general health, social functioning, mental health, self-esteem, and eating behaviors and attitudes compared with controls."
The picture on the right is an example of adolescent gynecomastia that was corrected by surgery protocol, devised and performed by Dr. Mordcai Blau, Chief Emeritus of Plastic Surgery in the Westchester Ambulatory Surgical Center, White Plains, New York.
Most males who develop gynecomastia find that it goes away on its own. A study published in the journal Pediatrics reported that in over 75% of cases of pubertal gynecomastia, signs and symptoms resolve within one year1.
If gynecomastia persists, there are treatments available.
Gynecomastia is not caused by extra fat from being overweight. It is caused by extra breast tissue. So, doing exercise or losing weight will not get rid of it. There are other conditions, such as pseudogynecomastia, in which fat builds up in the breasts, and are sometimes associated with being overweight or obese.
Signs and symptoms may occur in one or both breasts.
You should see the doctor if there is unusual and persistent swelling, tenderness, pain, and/or nipple discharge.
Gynecomastia may have several causes.
An article published in the journal Expert Opinion on Drug Safety5 reported on a study that examined all the scientific reviews on cases of possible/probable drug-induced gynecomastia since 1940 and concluded "Most of the reported drug-gynecomastia associations were based on poor quality evidence. The drugs definitely associated with the onset of gynecomastia are spironolactone, cimetidine, ketoconazole, hGH, estrogens, hCG, anti-androgens, GnRH analogs and 5-α reductase inhibitors. Medications probably associated with gynecomastia include risperidone, verapamil, nifedipine, omeprazole, alkylating agents, HIV medications (efavirenz), anabolic steroids, alcohol and opioids."
The doctor will ask the patient questions regarding symptoms, his medical and drug history, and possibly family history.
The physician will examine the breast tissue, as well as the genitals and abdomen.
If the doctor determines that it is caused by a hormone imbalance, as may be the case during puberty, and the gynecomastia appears typical for a teenage boy, the patient will be told not to worry and that it will all go away within about a year.
If the breast lump is abnormally large, tender, one-sided, or fixed and hard, further investigation will probably be required, including a biopsy. If the man has an unusual lump in one breast only, the doctor needs to know whether there is a family history of breast cancer.
The doctor will try to rule out other causes of male breast enlargement, such as:
The doctor may order some blood tests and a mammogram. Depending on the results, further tests may be ordered, including:
If the doctor finds an underlying condition that is causing the gynecomastia, it needs to be treated.
If the gynecomastia appears to be caused by a medication, the doctor may recommend switching to a different drug, discontinuing it, or carrying on. If the course of medication is not long-term, the condition will be temporary.
In the majority of cases, gynecomastia resolves on its own without any treatment. It is important that the doctor explains this to the patient.
Teenagers with no apparent cause of the condition will be advised to come back periodically to see whether it improves on its own - it usually does.
If the condition does not resolve on its own within a couple of years, causes embarrassment, pain and/or tenderness, treatment may be necessary.
Treatment for gynecomastia is rare, and may include medications such as hormone therapy to block the effects of estrogens, or breast reduction surgery.
The breast consists of two main components:
The ratio of glandular to fatty tissue varies from patient to patient. In individuals with gynecomastia there may be too much of both types of tissue.
Liposuction - if there is too much fatty tissue, liposuction can be used to suck it out. A 3-4mm incision is made, through which a small tube is inserted.
Excision - this means cutting out tissue with a scalpel. If the breast enlargement is caused by excess glandular tissue, it will need to be excised. This procedure will leave a scar, typically around the edge of the nipple. If a major reduction in tissue and skin is required, the surgeon will need to make a larger incision, resulting in a bigger scar.
The surgeon may recommend both - excision in conjunction with liposuction.
According to The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons8 (BAAPS), most gynecomastia operations last about 90 minutes and are performed under general anesthesia - in some cases local anesthesia with sedation is administered.
After surgery the chest will be bruised and swollen, making it hard to determine how effective the operation has been. The doctor will probably instruct the patient to wear an elastic pressure garment continuously for a couple of weeks to help reduce swelling.
According to BAAPS, it takes typically about six weeks before the patient is able to return to completely normal activities.
Complications from surgery are rare, and may include not enough removal of breast tissue, the chest having an uneven contour, or reduced sensation of the nipple(s). Surgery involving excision, rather than liposuction, carries the risk of a blood clot forming, which may need to be drained.
Below is a BBC TV documentary about gynecomastia.
Written by Christian Nordqvist
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without the permission of Medical News Today.
Visit our Men's Health category page for the latest news on this subject.
Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:
Nordqvist, Christian. "What is Gynecomastia? What are man boobs?." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 16 Sep. 2013. Web.
8 Dec. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266129>
Nordqvist, C. (2013, September 16). "What is Gynecomastia? What are man boobs?." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
Please note: If no author information is provided, the source is cited instead.
If you write about specific medications, operations, or procedures please do not name healthcare professionals by name.
For any corrections of factual information, or to contact the our editorial team, please use our feedback form. Please send any medical news or health news press releases to:
Note: Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a health care professional. For more information, please read our terms and conditions.
This page was printed from: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266129.php
Visit www.medicalnewstoday.com for medical news and health news headlines posted throughout the day, every day.
© 2004-2013 All rights reserved. MNT (logo) is the registered trade mark of MediLexicon International Limited.