What causes gynecomastia in men?
Gynecomastia is an unusual enlargement of the breast gland tissue in males (boys or men). The unusual growth is caused due to the imbalance of male and female hormones, oestrogen/estrogen and testosterone. In most cases, gynecomastia affects both breasts and very rarely, just one side is affected. Pseudogynecomastia is a condition wherein the breast enlargement is caused due to increased deposit of fat instead of the breast gland tissue.
Gynecomastia can be seen in newborn boys, boys nearing their puberty or even matured adults can develop it. Along with the imbalance of hormones, there are other conditions that can be the causative factor. Though this condition doesn’t really pose any health hazard, some may not like their appearance and want to get it corrected.
Causes of gynecomastia
Changes in hormones (or imbalance of estrogen and testosterone)
You should note that male bodies produce a tiny bit of estrogen which is actually a female hormone along with a regular amount of testosterone. When the estrogen level increases and testosterone goes down, the person may develop the condition.
Gynecomastia in infants is caused due to the mother’s hormones. This goes away with time after a few months after birth. Gynecomastia during puberty in boys is again due to the production of hormones and any imbalance usually gets adjusted in a few months and the physical appearance will usually return to normal. As men age, the testosterone levels go down and that can be a reason for developing gynecomastia in adults. Higher the age, higher the odds of developing female-like breasts.
Medications being taken to treat a different medical condition
- Medications used to treat prostate issues (such as enlarged prostate, prostate cancer etc) can lead to development of gynecomastia.
- Anabolic steroids, androgens, delayed puberty can cause gynecomastia.
- Medicines for HIV, ADHD, anti-anxiety, antidepressants, and certain antibiotics can contribute to the development of women like breasts in men.
- Medicines to treat ulcers, chemotherapy, heart problems can also be a cause.
Drug and alcohol abuse
Consumption of alcohol can retain more water in the body than required due to dehydration. Usage of anabolic steroids to build muscles or improve athletic performance, consumption of marijuana, heroin, methadone like drugs can contribute to the development of gynecomastia.
Health conditions that can cause gynecomastia
Health conditions that disturb the natural balance of hormones can cause enlargement of breasts in men including:
- Hypogonadism – Any medical condition that can lower the production of testosterone in the body.
- Ageing – As men age, it is natural that their testosterone levels drop gradually and can lead to increase in fat deposition in the body and also loss of muscle. Overweight men tend to see the condition sooner than those who have a better BMI (Body Mass Index).
- Tumours – Cancers such as testicular cancer can hamper the production of testosterone and can lead to gynecomastia.
- Hyperthyroidism – too little TSH levels from pituitary gland
- Failure of kidneys can alter hormone balance
- Liver failure and Cirrhosis are associated with gynecomastia
- Imbalanced diet, under-nourished or malnourished diet can lower testosterone production.
Who is at risk of developing gynecomastia?
As gynecomastia can develop at any age of a man/boy, males of all ages are at risk including new-borns, teens or adults. However, people who abuse drugs, use anabolic steroids, older men and men with above mentioned medical conditions are at higher risk than the rest.
Should gynecomastia be treated?
The answer is yes and no depending on ‘when’ the condition develops and ‘how’ it affects you mentally. If the condition develops in newborns or teens in their puberty, it should automatically go away in a few months. If it develops in adults, it may be treated with hormone balancing therapies or surgery. But, the decision if you need to get treated for enlarged breasts rests totally on you. If you think that your physical appearance isn’t good and makes you feel less confident and it is affecting your personal and/or professional life, yes, you need to get it treated from the best cosmetic surgeons near you.
Depending on when the condition arises, it may be possible to prevent the breasts from enlarging and sometimes sagging. If you are using steroids or abusing drugs, stop them immediately. If you are overweight, work on your weight and you should be alright very soon; make sure you focus on your chest area with pushups, bench press etc type of workouts.
If you think that any of the medications that you are currently using might be the cause, speak to your doctor about it and he/she may put you on a different medication. Consuming alcohol? Cut it down.