What you should know about Gynaecomastia (enlarged breasts in men)

It can be very troubling and embarrassing as a boy or man to have enlarged breasts like a woman, prompting boys or men with this problem to keep searching for possible causes and drugs for treating the condition, known as gynaecomastia.

Gynaecomastia occurs due to an imbalance between the hormones oestrogen (found in larger quantities in the woman) and testosterone (found in larger quantities in the man). So any condition in the male that either suppresses the level of testosterone or raises the level of oestrogen will allow oestrogen exert its effects in the man, one of which is the enlargement of breast tissue.

If as a boy or man you have gynaecomastia, or you know a boy or man who has, these are what you should know about enlarged breasts in men:

  • Gynaecomastia is often normal for most Boys

Enlargement of the breasts in the male, especially in boys attaining puberty (between the ages of 13 and 16), occurs temporarily as part of normal development. At puberty, there’s a rise in levels of different hormones, including oestrogen. This causes swelling of the breast tissue and even milky discharge from the nipples in some boys. This is not permanent, and within 6 months to 3 years, the breasts usually regress to the normal male size without any treatment.

  • Certain Drugs and Substances can Cause Gynaecomastia

Drugs like anabolic steroids used by male bodybuilders and athletes; ulcer medications like cimetidine; the highly active antiretroviral therapy regimen (HAART) used by HIV-positive men; drugs for treating prostate enlargement such as finasteride; some medications for treating cancer; and heart failure and antihypertensive medications like spironolactone and nifedipine; all have gynaecomastia as their side effects. Do check whether you have any of the above conditions and on medications for them so as to discuss with your doctor.

Other substances like alcohol, marijuana, heroin and some herbal preparations, when taken for a long period of time, can cause gynaecomastia. Try stopping the intake of any of these substances if you have gynaecomastia.

  • Gynaecomastia can be caused by some diseases

Hereditary genetic disorders like Klinefelter’s syndrome affect testosterone production, leading to enlargement of breast tissue in men who have them. Other disease conditions in which testosterone levels are affected include chronic kidney and liver diseases; liver cirrhosis; tumours of the testes, adrenal glands and pituitary gland; are associated with gynaecomastia

Malnutrition and starvation in the male deprive the body of nutrients for the production of energy and protein like testosterone without affecting oestrogen production, leading to gynaecomastia.

  • It may not be Gynaecomastia

Infection of the breast tissue, called breast abscess, can appear like gynaecomastia but with pain and skin changes around the breast.

Breast enlargement in men can result from deposition of fat around the breast in obese men and usually persists for many years. There’s usually no treatment needed in this case.

Breast cancer is very uncommon in men, but when every possible cause of gynaecomastia has been ruled out, and the enlarged breasts are firm and painless, it may be wise to visit the hospital for a tissue biopsy to rule out cancer.

Treatment of gynaecomastia not caused by puberty requires seeing a doctor, preferably an endocrinologist, in a specialist hospital who will take a detailed medical history from you and perform a complete physical examination on you, carry out specific medical investigations before prescribing some drugs for you. Sometimes, surgery may be indicated if all other treatments fail to take care of the gynaecomastia.

For more advice and help, feel free to ask a Doctor via The Reliance Care App

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