WHAT CAUSES HYPERTROPHY OF THE MALE BREAST?

Breast enlargement in men is known as gynecomastia. It is characterized by enlarged breast gland tissue. Gynecomastia may occur in childhood, at puberty, or even in old age (60 years and above), which could be normal. Breast enlargement in men also occurs due to hormonal changes, or as a side effect of some medications. Hypertrophy of the male breast can happen to one or both breasts. This article will not discuss pseudo gynecomastia, but its primary cause is obesity and by the accumulation of fat in the breast tissue. Breast enlargement in men does not require treatment in most cases. However, it may cause issues with self-esteem, causing the affected individual to withdraw from daily life activities. Gynecomastia may be treated with surgery, medication, or by not using illegal substances or certain medications.

breast enlargement in men
Photo Credit: Mayo Clinic

Symptoms of breast enlargement in men

Common symptoms attributed to gynecomastia include:

  • Tenderness of the breast tissue
  • Breast discharge
  • Swollen breasts

Based on the cause, the man may experience other symptoms as well. If you observe symptoms of male breast hypertrophy, contact your doctor without delay so that an examination and possible diagnosis can be done.

What causes hypertrophy of the male breast?

Most cases of gynecomastia are caused by reduced testosterone production in men usually with an increase in estrogen level. Hormonal fluctuations is normal at different phases of life and can affect older men, children attaining puberty, and infants.

Andropause

This describes that time in a man’s life that is similar to menopause in a woman’s. Andropause is characterized by a gradual decrease in testosterone production. This decrease occurs over several years.  Andropause starts around middle age. This hormonal imbalance may result in hair loss, insomnia, and gynecomastia.

Puberty

Even though males produce androgens, they also have female hormones (estrogen). When a male enters puberty, the body may produce a higher amount of estrogen than androgens. The result may be hypertrophy of the male breast. It is usually a temporary condition and subsides as the level of hormones rebalance.

Breast milk

Sucking of the mom’s breast milk may cause gynecomastia to develop in male infants. Breast milk contains estrogen, so nursing babies may have a slightly higher level of estrogen.

Medications

Amphetamines and steroids can cause a slight increase in estrogen levels. This can result in breast enlargement in men.

Underlying medical conditions

Less common causes of gynecomastia include liver failure, testicular tumors, chronic renal failure, and liver failure (cirrhosis).

Diagnosing breast enlargement in men

To determine the cause of hypertrophy of the male breast, the doctor will inquire about your medical history and that of your family. There will also be a physical examination of your genitals and breasts. The breast tissue of gynecomastia patients is usually greater than 0.5cm in diameter.

If the exact cause of your gynecomastia cannot be determined, you’ll be asked to do blood tests to check your hormone levels. An ultrasound or a mammogram may be ordered to view your breast tissue while also checking for suspicious growths. Sometimes, there may be the need for CT scans, MRI scans, biopsies, or X-rays.

How is gynecomastia treated in men?

Hypertrophy of the male breast does not require any treatment and usually resolves on its own. However, if it is caused by an underlying medical condition, then that condition should be the target of treatment to resolve the enlargement.

If breast enlargement is accompanied by social embarrassment or severe pain, surgery and medications may be used to treat and correct the condition.

Surgery

The doctor may employ surgery to cut off excess fat from your breast. If it caused by swollen tissue, then he or she may suggest a mastectomy, a surgical procedure to take off excess tissue.

Medications

Raloxifene and tamoxifen may be used. These medications affect hormone levels.

Counseling

Gynecomastia can indeed cause embarrassment. If you are already feeling depressed or too self-conscious to participate in daily activities, then you should speak to your counselor or your doctor. You can also relate to men who share a similar condition.

The Summary

Gynecomastia can occur in males of any age. If you notice any symptoms of gynecomastia, please consult your doctor. Once the cause is identified, you’ll be treated and your condition efficiently managed.

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