Gynecomastia is a fairly taboo condition because it involves enlarged breast tissue in men and adolescent and infant boys. It’s related to hormonal changes during different periods of the male’s life, but it has the potential to come or go over time. There are a few different hormonal causes of gynecomastia, and understanding what causes breast tissue enlargement in males goes a long way towards ending the condition’s taboo.
Natural Hormone Changes
Gynecomastia occurs when a male’s testosterone drops and their estrogen increases. Both of these hormones are responsible for developing and maintaining the sexual characteristics in men and women. Testosterone is responsible for controlling male traits like muscle mass, body hair, and their deep voice. Estrogen controls things like breasts, increased body fat and lack of facial hair in women.
While estrogen is technically a female hormone, men do have small amounts of it. When this amount gets too high, though, gynecomastia occurs. More than 50 percent of male infants are born with enlarged breast tissue because of their exposure to their mother’s estrogen. It typically goes away two to three weeks post-partum, though. Pubescent boys may also experience the condition, but it often goes away in six months to two years. One in four adult males between the ages of 50 and 80 are diagnosed with gynecomastia because of the drop in testosterone as they age.
Certain types of medication may cause gynecomastia, especially if they’re hormonal medications:
- Drugs used to treat prostate enlargement/cancer
- Anabolic steroids
- AIDS medications
- Certain anti-anxiety medications
- Ulcer treatments
Illicit Drugs and Alcohol
Marijuana, amphetamines, heroin, and methadone have all shown to contribute to enlarged breast tissue in males. Alcohol may also disrupt the testosterone/estrogen balance.
There are a handful of health conditions that might result in gynecomastia. These include:
- Aging, especially in overweight men
- Tumors of the testes, adrenal gland or pituitary gland
- Hemodialysis in patients with kidney failure
- Liver failure/cirrhosis
- Malnutrition that leads to drops in testosterone, but steady levels of estrogen
Gynecomastia can be caused by a lot of different things. Patients should get a thorough check-up if they’re experiencing the condition and aren’t taking any sort of medications, drugs or drinking excessively. There could be a dangerous underlying cause, such as a tumor altering the hormone levels, so gynecomastia should always receive further evaluation.
At the office of Dr. Wendell Perry, MD in Miramar, we are here to help you every step of the way in diagnosing your condition and then forming an effective treatment plan. We proudly offer male breast reduction surgery as a safe way for men to finally say goodbye to their unwanted breasts. Contact our office today to schedule your consultation to learn more.