Going through puberty can be difficult for any child. Their bodies are changing so quickly that it’s hard to understand what’s going on. But when a boy develops gynecomastia, it can be especially embarrassing. If your son is having this issue, you can help him get through it in a number of ways.
What Is Gynecomastia?
Gynecomastia is the development of breast tissue in males. It’s usually a result of hormonal changes. That’s why it’s likely to happen during puberty.
It’s completely normal for a boy to go through this in his pre-teen or teen years. His facial hair will also be sprouting, his voice will deepen and his muscles will grow. These changes happen because of the hormones that are made in the testicles.
But men don’t only produce androgens, the hormones that are responsible for male characteristics. They also produce some estrogen, which is the hormone that is responsible for breast growth.
As the hormones balance out, the large breasts should diminish in size. Some boys experience puffiness on just one side. Others have it on both sides of the chest. The area may be tender, but it should go away on its own within a few months or years.
Some signs of this condition include:
- Puffy nipples
- Swollen nipples
- Large areolas
- Enlarged breasts
Is Gynecomastia a Problem?
It’s completely normal for males to develop breast tissue during puberty. About half of all boys between the ages of 12 and 16 get this condition in at least one breast.
However, the condition can be humiliating. Many kids with this issue are self-conscious about the way that they look. Breast enlargement is not harmful to your health unless it’s linked with an underlying medical condition, but it can have a serious emotional impact.
Is Surgery an Option?
This condition can persist in up to 5 percent of boys. If it doesn’t go away on its own, medication may be an option.
Some males choose to have gynecomastia surgery to remove the extra tissue. However, surgical intervention is not recommended for children and young adults. It’s best to wait until your hormones have regulated.
If you have surgery before your body has finished developing, the results may not be permanent. Future weight gain or use of medications can also make the condition return. Plus, the condition usually goes away on its own. Going under the knife may be unnecessarily distressing for a young boy.
Physical Support for Boys With Breast Enlargement
Breast enlargement may not cause any pain. However, it may be uncomfortable.
Boys may find it painful when they put their shirt on. The cloth may rub against the puffy nipples and cause chafing or discomfort.
Compression shirts can help. They flatten the area and create a buffer between your skin and your shirt. These tight garments also smooth out the front of the chest, eliminating the look of “man boobs.”
If you don’t want to wear an extra garment, you can choose nipple covers, which are small circles that are made of hypoallergenic materials and adhere to your skin. These can hide the look of pointy or swollen nipples beneath a shirt.
Emotional Support for Boys With Breast Enlargement
Boys with enlarged breasts may feel ashamed about the condition. They might want to hide it for fear of being teased. Many males struggle with depression and anxiety because of these changes that are happening to their bodies. Research has found that breast enlargement is also linked to low self-esteem.
The severity of the condition doesn’t seem to play a major role in the psychological impairment that enlarged breasts can cause. Boys with any level of breast enlargement have impairments related to the following:
- Social functioning
- Mental health
- General health
- Eating behaviors and attitudes
Many boys are hesitant to talk about the issue because they’re embarrassed. They might not bring it up with their friends, parents or doctor. If your son is going through this, you might want to say something about it first.
This can be a tricky topic, especially for emotionally sensitive adolescents. Just let them know that you are willing to listen. Talking to a professional can also help if you notice that your son is moody, having social problems or isolating himself.
Sometimes, excess fat can make the breasts look larger in boys. That usually goes away when you lose weight. Dropping some pounds may help reduce the symptoms of gynecomastia, but it won’t make the problem go away.
However, you may want to discuss eating healthy foods and getting plenty of exercise with your son. Those are important habits for any young man to adopt.
Never tease your son about his body or appearance. Even if you think that you’re being good-natured, you could be leaving him with negative beliefs and traumatic memories about his body. Remind your child that everyone is different. We all grow at different rates, and there is nothing wrong with being bigger, smaller, wider or thinner than anyone else.