Gynecomastia is a condition that is common in males, specifically newborns, pubescent boys, and older men. As a result, gynecomastia is fairly common. That said, many people are wondering why such a condition seems to be as prevalent as it now is. Gynecomastia is essentially an increase in the amount of gland/breast tissue in males. Sudden changes and imbalances in estrogen and testosterone levels in the body lead to gynecomastia. Though gynecomastia is not a serious problem for most men, this condition is still worth understanding along with the potential underlying causes.
Causes of Gynecomastia in Males
Usually, what causes gynecomastia in males, as briefly mentioned, change in hormone levels. That said, there are a variety of things that can actually upset the balance of testosterone and estrogen in males. One of the main underlying causes of gynecomatia is a naturally occuring change in hormones.
For instance, when infants developed swollen or enlarged breast tissue, it is due to their mother’s estrogen effects. Similarly, older boys develop this condition due to humoral changes caused by puberty. Nevertheless, pubertal gynecomastia goes away after puberty is completed (usually in six months to two years). Finally, older men between the ages of 40 and 59 are also dealing with a decrease in their testosterone levels, weight gain or excess body fat, possible medication side effects, a sedimentary lifestyle, underlying causes, and more—all of which can cause gynecomastia.
Common Cause of Gynecomastia
Be that as it may, the most common gynecomastia causes for young males and in adult men include drug abused, a particular medication side effect (cancer treatment drugs, etc.), and liver disease. In infants, boys, and teens, the most likely cause is either hormonal changes or an imbalance in hormones (testosterone production is low while female hormone production is higher than usual).
Drugs that Cause Gynecomastia
Medications or drugs that are likely causing this condition in males or adult men include ulcer medication, anabolic steroids, tricyclic anti-depressants, some HIV meds, and calcium channel blockers. Drugs that treat anxiety or are used for chemotherapy and the treatment of prostate cancer, as well as certain antibiotics, can also lead to gynecomastia in adult men or enlarged breasts in teens. Plant-based products (creams, shampoos, etc.) with tea tree oil and lavender can potentially cause gynecomastia as well. Likewise, street/illegal drugs like heroin, marijuana, methadone, amphetamines, and alcohol are all substances that can cause this condition.
Underlying Causes of Gynecomastia
Differential disorders or underlying gynecomastia causes are widespread, but at their core, ultimately upset the normal balance of hormones in males and females. Health conditions such as hypogonadism (lack of sex hormones), testicular cancer, hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland), liver or kidney failure, and cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) can all add to the likelihood that a person will develop gynecomastia. Similarly, aging, obesity, malnutrition, and starvation are other health problems that are associated with gynecomastia.
Overall, gynecomastia’s main risk factors are unsurprisingly old age, adolescence, and steroid usages or athletic enhancement drug abuse. Other notable risk factors include kidney disease, liver problems, and thyroid disease, and active tumors. Klinefelter syndrome, a condition where males are born with an extra copy of the X chromosome, is another risk factor for this particular ailment.
Signs and Symptoms
Normally a clear indication that a person is suffering from gynecomastia is the presence of enlarged breasts. However, this condition can affect one or both breasts (unilateral and bilateral gynecomastia). Other symptoms may include nipple discharge, retraction of the nipple, possible enlarged lymph nodes, dimpling of the skin, and a hard/firm feeling to male breast tissue or gland tissue.
Diagnosing Cases of Gynecomastia
A physical examination will accurately diagnose this condition. If your physician notes breast tissue that is greater than 0.5 cm in diameter, gynecomastia is likely. Further testing may need to occur. This can potentiallt means additional blood tests, an overview of the patient’s medical history report. Note, there are four stages of gynecomastia (Grade I, Grade II, Grade III, and Grade IV). There are also two types—true or glandular and fatty gynecomastia.
Conditions with Similar Symptoms
It is a good idea to seek medical advice or attention if you suspect that you have gynecomastia is because there are several health conditions with similar if not almost identical symptoms. Consequently, your doctor will also look for breast cancer, any breast abscesses, and possible fatty tissue. Obviously, the latter two conditions may look like gynecomastia, but the good news is that they are not. A breast abscess is typically a treatable infection of the breast gland tissue. While some men and boys simply have excess breast fat, which is also an underlying cause of gynecomastia and pseudogynecomastia.