What is gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia refers to a condition in which males develop swelling of breast tissue. It should not be confused with pseudogynecomastia, in which adipose (fat) tissue takes on the appearance of breasts. Gynecomastia is not uncommon, especially in pubescent males and male infants. Gynecomastia arises from changes in androgen and estrogen levels, which control the development of male and female characteristics, respectively.

Gynecomastia often starts as a tender lump below the nipple. Lumps are generally small in size. The development of breast tissue can occur on one or both sides, and growth can occur unevenly. In certain cases, such as in infants, galactorrhea (milk production) can occur along with gynecomastia.

Gynecomastia can arise from heredity, lifestyle, and developmental factors. Gynecomastia may occur in up to half of males undergoing puberty. In addition, it is common in bodybuilders, those who use steroids, and marijuana users. It may also be related to conditions such as thyroid imbalance.

In most cases, gynecomastia will resolve spontaneously. In situations in which bodybuilding or recreational drug use leads to breast tissue development, addressing the underlying cause of gynecomastia will often resolve the condition. In rare cases, however, gynecomastia may require hormone therapy or breast reduction surgery.

While gynecomastia is common and is generally not serious, seek prompt medical care for symptoms that may indicate breast cancer, such as breast development on only one side, firm lumps within the breast, ulcers of the breast, or bloody nipple discharge.

Seek prompt medical care for prepubescent males with symptoms of gynecomastia, as these may indicate a serious underlying condition.


SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of gynecomastia?

The usual symptoms of gynecomastia include lumps under the nipple on either one or both sides of the torso, breast development, and tenderness of the breasts. In more serious cases, symptoms of gynecomastia include painful breasts, skin ulceration over the breast, or nipple discharge. Seek medical attention for any serious symptoms of gynecomastia, as these could be early indicators of breast c... Read more about gynecomastiasymptoms

CAUSES

What causes gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia is caused by changes in the level of androgens (male hormones) in the body, as may occur during puberty. Fluctuations in androgen levels can occur for a variety of reasons.

Developmental causes of gynecomastia

Gynecomastia is common over the course of development, especially when hormone fluctuations occur, such as during:

  • Aging Read more about gynecomastiacauses

TREATMENTS

How is gynecomastia treated?

In most cases, especially in pubescent males and infants, gynecomastia resolves itself. In extreme cases, medical intervention, such as hormone therapy or even breast reduction surgery, may be required. In cases in which there is an underlying cause, such as steroid abuse, treatment of the underlying cause generally leads to resolution of gynecomastia.

What you can do to impro... Read more about gynecomastiatreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Male Reproductive System