Gynecomastia is a condition of over-developed or enlarged breasts in men that can occur at any age. The condition can be the result of hormonal changes, heredity, obesity or the use of certain drugs.
Gynecomastia can cause emotional discomfort and impair your self-confidence. Some men may even avoid certain physical activities and intimacy simply to hide their condition.
Gynecomastia is characterized by:
- Excess localized fat
- Excess glandular tissue development
- Sometimes excess breast skin
- Presence unilaterally (one breast) or bilaterally (both breasts)
Gynecomastia definition and facts
- Gynecomastia is the enlargement of the glandular tissue of the male breast.
- The condition may occur during infancy and puberty in normally-developing boys.
- Gynecomastia results from an imbalance in the hormonal environment in the body, with a relative excess of estrogens (female hormones) when compared to androgens (male hormones).
- The causes of the gynecomastia can result as a side effect of numerous medications and drugs of abuse, for example:
- Corticosteroids and anabolic steroids
- Herbals like dong Quai, tea tree oil, and lavender
- Opioids (narcotic drugs)
- Estrogen (including those in soy products)
- Heartburn drugs
- Anti-anxiety medication
What are the signs and symptoms of gynecomastia?
The primary symptom of gynecomastia is an enlargement of the male breasts. As mentioned before, gynecomastia is the enlargement of glandular tissue rather than fatty tissue. It is typically symmetrical in a location with regard to the nipple and may have a rubbery or firm feel. Gynecomastia usually occurs on both sides but can be unilateral in some cases. The enlargement may be greater on one side even if both sides are involved. Tenderness and sensitivity may be present, although there is typically no severe pain.
The most important distinction with gynecomastia is differentiation from male breast cancer, which accounts for about 1% of overall cases of breast cancer. Cancer is usually confined to one side, is not necessarily centered around the nipple, feels hard or firm, and can be associated with dimpling of the skin, retraction of the nipple, nipple discharge, and enlargement of the underarm (axillary) lymph nodes.