You may have heard of gynecomastia. You may even know it from personal experience. It is the enlargement of breasts in men and boys—also referred to as “man boobs.” Although most think of it as abnormal, it actually occurs in about two thirds of puberty-aged boys—usually about 13 or 14 years old, according to endocrinologist Glenn Braunstein. It also occurs frequently in older males, usually after the age of 50.
Gynecomastia can cause physical pain, such as extreme tenderness of the nipple when things such as shirts or towels rub against it. Moreover, it can cause serious emotional stress and anxiety. Teenage boys with gynecomastia may live in fear, taunted or shamed by peers, and constantly comparing themselves to “normal” males.
Gynecomastia is most frequently caused by a hormonal imbalance. Although all men have some amount of estrogen—the hormone that plays a key role in female development—gynecomastia occurs when a male’s body produces too much estrogen. Obesity can also play a role in causing gynecomastia, as it can and often does lead to fat being stored behind the breast. Although gynecomastia can be a symptom of certain cancers or other more serious problems, Braunstein says it should only be a cause for real concern if it develops early, such as in a five-, six-, or seven-year-old.
While most cases show that gynecomastia goes away on in three to six months, there are several treatment options for men and boys who suffer from it. Gynecomastia.org is a vast source of information about the various treatments available. There are medications that help to reduce the pain, and if the condition persists past puberty, then male breast reduction surgery is an option, in which a plastic surgeon can remove the extra tissue.
Braunstein suggests waiting at least a year and a half after the issue manifests before considering surgery. After that point, he says, the breasts may contain scar tissue, in which case the extra tissue would be less likely to go away on its own or respond to available medications. It is important to be sure boys are finished with puberty before undergoing surgery; if the breast tissue is removed before a boy’s body has finished developing, then it is possible that the gynecomastia will return.
If you currently struggle or at any time in the past struggled with gynecomastia, look no farther than gynecomstia.org for a place to give and receive the support that everyone with this condition deserves.
Gynecomastia.org is the world’s best forum and source of information and current news on this common but rarely discussed condition.
Rewrite by Miguel Delgado M.D. —Gynecomastia Specialist
Source: Voiland, Adam. “Boys Who Grow Breasts: What They CanDo.” US News. U.S. News & World Report, 19 Sept. 2007. Web. 16 July 2015.