Gynecomastia, also known as male breasts or man boobs, is a common problem that affects men across the lifespan. Although it’s not usually a painful condition, having breast tissue as a man can feel uncomfortable and embarrassing. Fortunately, you don’t need to give up hope. There are several effective treatments and solutions for male breasts.
Causes of Male Breasts
Male breast tissue can develop for a number of reasons, and the best solution varies depending on the underlying cause. Before you seek treatment for gynecomastia, you should figure out what is causing the breast tissue.
It’s normal for boys and men to develop breast tissue at certain ages. Around 90 percent of newborn boys have at least a small amount of breast tissue because of the transfer of estrogen from the mother. Usually, newborn gynecomastia goes away within four weeks of birth. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, babies with male breast tissue that persists after their first birthday should undergo further examination.
Breast tissue is also common in adolescent males. About half of boys beginning puberty will develop breast tissue, and the average onset occurs at the ages of 13 or 14. Breasts can develop when the levels of male and female hormones become imbalanced, which frequently happens during puberty.
The third point in the lifespan when male breast development is common is later in adulthood. Hormonal changes can occur at this time, so about 65 percent of men between the ages of 50 and 80 have some degree of breast tissue.
Obesity is the most common cause of pseudogynecomastia, which looks similar to gynecomastia but has important physiological differences. Hormonal problem typically cause the development of gynecomastia and glandular tissue. Pseudogynecomastia is excess fat on the chest that creates the appearance of breast tissue. If you are overweight or obese, extra fat may build up across your entire body, including your chest.
Some people experience pseudogynecomastia and standard gynecomastia at the same time. Obesity can also cause an increase in estrogen levels, which can result in the development of glandular tissue alongside the excess fat.
Hormonal imbalances occur naturally at certain points in life, but can also be connected to an underlying medical problem. There are numerous medical conditions that can cause hormonal problems in men, and the development of breast tissue is sometimes a sign or symptom.
The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that 8 percent of cases of male breasts are caused by liver disease. Researchers are not sure exactly why, but cirrhosis and other liver conditions may increase estrogen levels, leading to the development of breast tissue.
Another 8 percent of gynecomastia cases are caused by hypogonadism, or testosterone deficiency. This condition occurs when the gonads are unable to produce testosterone, which disrupts the balance of male and female hormones in the body. Hypogonadism can be caused by a testicular disorder or by a problem with the hypothalamus or pituitary gland.
The following medical disorders account for a small percentage of cases of male breasts:
- Adrenal tumors
- Pituitary tumors
- Testicular tumors
- Kallman syndrome
- Renal insufficiency
Solutions for Male Breasts
Diet and Exercise
If you have pseudogynecomastia caused by obesity, the best treatment is diet and exercise. This will help you lose the excess fat on your chest. If the excess fat has increased your estrogen levels and caused glandular tissue to form, losing weight can also help restore your normal hormone levels and get rid of the breast tissue.
If you have a medical condition that is causing the breast tissue, treating that condition with medications or therapies is the best option. There are also a few medications that can target the breast tissue itself.
The most common medication used to reduce male breast tissue is tamoxifen, a drug that blocks estrogen. It’s typically used to treat breast cancer. However, according to some studies, Tamoxifen could also potentially reduce breast tissue in men.
Aromatase inhibitors, which improve testosterone levels, can also treat gynecomastia. Although the medication is usually prescribed to treat breast and ovarian cancer, it can be used off-label to reduce male breast tissue.
The surgery to remove male breast tissue is called reduction mammoplasty. It’s a major procedure done under anesthesia, so most doctors only recommend it if the breast tissue is causing discomfort or psychological distress.
During the surgery, your doctor will use excision techniques to remove the glandular tissue from your chest. If you also have excess fat that contributes to the appearance of male breasts, your doctor can use liposuction techniques to remove it.
Many people find that compression garments are the easiest solution to male breast tissue. They work immediately, and there’s no risk of side effects or complications. Although compression garments don’t actually remove the breast tissue, they erase the appearance of man boobs, which can help you feel more confident in your appearance.
Here are some of the most popular compression garments:
- Gynecomastia compression shirt: A gynecomastia shirt will compress your chest, slimming down the area and eliminating the appearance of male breasts. You can wear one under your regular shirts to make your clothes fit better. You can also wear a specialized gynecomastia t-shirt, which looks and feels like a normal t-shirt but slims down your chest.
- Gynecomastia compression vest: A vest functions in the same way as a gynecomastia shirt, but it’s sleeveless. It fits discreetly under your clothing, and it hides any extra fat or tissue around your chest.
- Nipple covers: Some men with gynecomastia also have enlarged, puffy nipples. You can use nipple covers to prevent your nipples from being visible through your shirt. They can also help with pain and sensitivity.
Male breast tissue is a frustrating problem, but there are effective ways to handle it. If you’ve had male breasts for more than a couple years, you should speak to your doctor about the situation. There may be an underlying medical condition at play, and even if there isn’t, your doctor probably has good advice for reducing the breast tissue. Whether you choose to get rid of male breasts with diet and lifestyle changes, compression garments, or medical intervention, you’ll be glad that you took action to solve the problem and restore your confidence.