Gynecomastia is referred to as a condition which results in swelling of breast tissue in boys or men. It is caused because of an imbalance of hormones oestrogen and testosterone. Gynecomastia can affect one or both breasts, evenly or at times unevenly. Boys going through puberty, newborns and older men may develop gynecomastia because of changes in hormone levels and various other causes. Under usual circumstances, gynecomastia doesn’t cause any problems. But at times it can cause and men and boys to experience pain in their breasts and they may end up feeling embarrassed. While usually it may go away on its own, but if it persists – it may need treatment with the help of surgery or medication. Common symptoms of gynecomastia include swollen breast tissue and breast tenderness. You need to seek medical assistance in case there is pain, swelling or nipple discharge in one or both breasts.
Causes of gynecomastia
Decrease in the amount of testosterone as compared to oestrogen can cause gynecomastia. There can be several reasons behind hormonal imbalance. Read below to know:
1. Testosterone and oestrogen both control the development and maintenance of sex characteristics in both men and women. Testosterone controls mail traits such as body hair and muscle mass, while oestrogen controls female traits such as growth of breasts.
2. While oestrogen is widely considered as the female hormone, males also produce it in small quantities. It is when the male oestrogen levels go too high or are out of balance with testosterone levels is what leads to gynecomastia.
3. Gynecomastia in infants is quite common. It occurs when infants are born with enlarged breasts because of mother’s oestrogen. But this swollen breast tissues goes away within weeks after birth.
4. Gynecomastia during puberty is because of hormone changes at this point of time. This kind of gynecomastia is quite common. The swollen breast tissue should ideally goes away without treatment within the period of six months to two years.
5. Gynecomastia in men increases between the ages 50 to 69. 1 in 4 men in the age group are known to be affected by gynecomastia.
6. Intake of alcohol, marijuana, methadone, amphetamines and heroin can also lead to gynecomastia.
7. There are certain health conditions which can cause gynecomastia because of disrupted hormonal imbalance. These include hypogonadism (which interferes with testosterone production), tumours, ageing, kidney failure, hyperthyroidism, malnutrition and starvation, liver failure or cirrhosis and kidney failure to name a few.
8. Use of certain herbal products such as plant oils like tea tree or lavender oils in shampoos, soaps or lotions may be associated gynecomastia. However, this occurs mostly because of weak oestrogenic activity in men.
1. Medications can be used for treatment of gynecomastia. Anti-androgen drugs are used to treat enlargement of prostate, prostate cancer and some other conditions.
2. AIDS medications can help in treatment of gynecomastia since it may develop in HIV-positive men who receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).
3. Anabolic steroids and androgens can also be used for gynecomastia treatment.
4. Antibiotics, anti-anxiety medications, tricyclic anti-depressants, ulcer medications, chemotherapy, heart medications such as calcium channel blockers and gastric motility medications may help in treatment of gynecomastia.
5. In case the medications don’t might need surgical reduction of breasts.
A condition like gynecomastia can be prevented by avoiding illegal drugs such as androgens, steroids, heroin and marijuana; avoiding alcohol and drinking it only in moderation; taking a review of your medications to know if they may be contributing to gynecomastia.