Medical Conditions that cause Gynecomastia

There are many medical conditions that interfere with normal testosterone production and can cause gynecomastia. Some of the more common ones are listed below.

  • Hypogonadism. This is a health condition in which the body does not produce an adequate amount of testosterone, the hormone responsible for male traits, such as body hair and muscle mass. Some men are born with hypogonadism, while others develop it later in life from infection or injury. Some types of male hypogonadism can be treated with testosterone replacement therapy.
  • Klinefelter syndrome. A genetic condition found in males who have XXY sex chromosomes, rather than the usual XY, this chromosome abnormality occurs in 1 in 500 male births. The characteristics of Klinefelter syndrome include small testes, low production of testosterone, and infertility. If you are looking for information and advice about this condition, the Klinefelter Support Forum is a good resource.
  • Pituitary Insufficiency. Hypopituitarism is a decrease in the secretion of one or more of the eight hormones that are produced by the pituitary gland. The signs and symptoms of Pituitary Insufficiency vary depending on which of the hormones are undersecreted. The resulting low production of testosterone can cause gynecomastia.
  • Pituitary tumors - Prolactin-producing tumors. The most common pituitary tumor is a prolactinoma. This tumor causes the overproduction of the hormone prolactin, a hormone that helps control sexual function. In men, prolactin-producing tumors may cause enlarged breasts (gynecomastia), erectile dysfunction or impotence, infertility, decrease in body hair, and low sex drive.
  • Other Tumors. Tumors of the testes or adrenal glands can produce hormones that alter the male-female hormone balance, resulting in male breast enlargement.
  • Aging. As a man ages, the amount of testosterone in his body decreases. This is sometimes referred to as Low-T and can result in an imbalance of estrogen, which in turn can cause gynecomastia. This is especially true in men who are overweight, because the excess fat encourages more estrogen production.
  • Hyperthyroidism. The over production of thyroxine in the thyroid gland can result in male breast enlargement or gynecomastia.
  • Kidney failure. Nearly half the patients being treated with ongoing hemodialysis experience gynecomastia due to hormonal changes.
  • Liver failure and cirrhosis. Liver disease and related medications taken for cirrhosis are associated with gynecomastia.
  • Malnutrition and starvation. Malnutrition causes testosterone levels to decrease; yet estrogen levels remain the same, resulting in a hormone imbalance and male breast development. Gynecomastia can occur even after an adequately nutritional diet is restarted.

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