What Causes Gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia, a medical condition characterized by enlarged male breasts, is not merely a cosmetic issue. It can severely affect quality of life. Large breasts can make exercise and fitting into clothing difficult. Having woman-like breasts can cause men to suffer significant psychological disorders, including depression and anxiety.

Dr. Ronald Schuster fields many questions from men that struggle with gynecomastia. They want to know what causes the condition and what can be done about it. Here, he addresses those important questions.

Possible Causes of Enlarged Male Breasts

To understand the causes, it is important to differentiate between a condition known as pseudo-gynecomastia and true gynecomastia. In the former, the enlarged breasts are composed of fatty tissue and, because the tissue is fat, it can usually be reduced with exercise, diet and liposuction surgery. In the latter condition, the enlarged breasts are composed of glandular tissue (sometimes mixed with fatty tissue). Glandular tissue is firmer and more fibrous than fatty tissue, and does not respond to diet or exercise. The only way to reduce it is surgically.

Men that are overweight are likely to have large breasts composed of fat tissue. But what contributes to the overdevelopment of glandular tissue in the breasts? Every case is different, and in many, the specific cause cannot be identified.

Often, a hormonal imbalance is to blame. The man’s testosterone levels decrease as his estrogen levels increase, and the hormonal upset leads to a swelling of the breast tissue. Also, certain medications can lead to gynecomastia, including anti-androgens that are used to treat prostate enlargement and cancer, anabolic steroids and AIDS medications. Also, some experts believe that the use of street drugs (e.g., marijuana) and overuse of alcohol can cause gynecomastia.

In some cases, gynecomastia is associated with some serious medical conditions such as thyroid problems, inherited genetic disorders resulting in hypogonadism and kidney or liver failure. Prior to gynecomastia treatment, medical testing is conducted to rule out any health problems.

Surgical Correction of Gynecomastia

Gynecomastia surgery, or male breast reduction, involves using excision techniques (and sometimes liposuction technology) to remove the excess tissue and flatten the breasts. Depending on the size and degree of sagging, excess breast skin can be removed and the remaining skin tightened. The surgical plan is tailored to the needs of the individual patient.

Recovering from gynecomastia surgery is typically short and free of any complications. Most patients resume work or school after a week. They wear a surgical compression garment for about three weeks to control swelling and help expedite the healing process. Exercise can be resumed two weeks after surgery, with Dr. Schuster’s approval.

Contact Our Gynecomastia Surgeon

To learn more about gynecomastia and male breast reduction surgery, please contact Dr. Schuster and request a consultation.