Man boobs, moobs, male breasts: whatever you call it, gynecomastia can be a condition that causes embarrassment. Gynecomastia develops when the breast tissue in a man or boy becomes enlarged. The most common cause of enlarged male breasts is a hormone imbalance.
Hormonal imbalance can occur at any stage of life, meaning that gynecomastia can occur at any stage of life. While the condition isn’t a cause for concern medically, it can create social challenges for a man or boy. Fortunately, treatment such as male breast reduction surgery is available.
The Responsible Hormones: Estrogen and Testosterone
The two hormones that are most often responsible for gynecomastia are estrogen and testosterone. Estrogen is often thought of as the “female” hormone and testosterone as the “male” hormone.
In reality, men and women have both estrogen and testosterone. The amount of each hormone varies based on sex. Women usually have more estrogen than men while men have higher levels of testosterone.
One of the things estrogen controls is the size of the breasts. When estrogen levels go up in a man or if a man’s testosterone levels drop, he might develop enlarged breasts. There are some times in life when a man’s hormones might be influx, increasing the risk of enlarged breasts. In some cases, outside factors, such as medications or lifestyle habits, can also affect the balance of hormones.
Who Can Develop Gynecomastia?
Gynecomastia can occur in men at any age of life, but is more likely to happen at three distinct points in a man’s life:
- Right after birth.
- During puberty.
- After the age of 50.
About half of all baby boys are born with enlarged breasts. Gynecomastia in newborn boys occurs because the babies are exposed to high levels of estrogen while in the womb. When a baby boy is born with enlarged breasts, the condition usually resolves on its own after a couple of weeks, as the estrogen leaves his system.
You might remember puberty as a time of raging, fluctuating hormones. In some adolescent boys, those fluctuating hormones can trigger gynecomastia. Usually, the enlarged breast tissue returns to normal within six months to two years after puberty begins.
Hormonal changes that occur later in life as part of the aging process can also lead to gynecomastia. About one-quarter of men over the age of 50 have enlarged breasts. At this stage in life, if the breast enlargement is concerning to a man, surgery can correct it.
What Causes a Hormonal Imbalance?
Hormonal imbalance can occur naturally as part of changes in the body such as aging or puberty. In some instances, though, it can also develop as a result of a health condition, medication or illicit drugs.
Weight and diet can also affect the hormone levels in a man. Men who are overweight or obese tend to have a greater risk of developing gynecomastia because body fat tends to have higher amounts of estrogen. If a man eats a poor diet and doesn’t get the appropriate amount of nutrients, his levels of testosterone can drop. Estrogen levels remain the same, which can lead to an enlargement in breast tissue.
A variety of medical conditions can also affect the balance of hormones in the body. Gynecomastia can occur as a result of hormonal changes related to liver and kidney disease, thyroid problems and tumors on certain glands.
While certain other conditions aren’t responsible for changes in a person’s hormone levels, a medication used to treat some conditions can affect the hormones. Certain anti-anxiety medicines, antidepressants, antibiotics, and cancer treatments can lead to enlarged breast tissue in men.
Alcohol and illicit drug use can also alter the balance of hormones in the body, making gynecomastia more likely. Drugs such as heroin, marijuana, and amphetamines can all affect breast size.
How to Correct a Hormonal Imbalance
What you can do to correct a hormonal imbalance depends in large part on what’s causing the issue. If the imbalance is due to a natural life change, such as puberty, the best option is usually to wait it out, as the hormones will return to normal levels soon.
If an external factor, such as weight, diet, drug use or medication use, is contributing to the problem, then the imbalance can often be corrected by focusing on treating or adjusting the issue. In the case of extra body fat or obesity, losing the excess weight might help to restore the balance of hormones. Improving a poor diet can also help.
If a prescription medication is behind the hormone issue, it might be worth talking to your primary care doctor to see if there is another option available to you. In the case of drugs and alcohol, giving up the substance can help. Depending on your level of dependency on the substance, you might need medical support to stop using it.
How to Correct Gynecomastia
In some instances, gynecomastia will correct itself. When it occurs in babies and adolescents, the condition usually resolves on its own after the hormones adjust. In older men, though, the breasts might remain enlarged even after a hormonal imbalance is corrected.
When that’s the case, surgery might be a good option to reduce the size of the breasts. Gynecomastia surgery can involve liposuction to remove any fatty deposits in the breast area. It can also involve the removal of the breast tissue itself.
Dr. Stephan Baker performs gynecomastia surgery or male breast reduction surgery at his practice in Miami, FL. If you’re concerned about the size of your breasts and have done what you can to correct any accompanying hormonal issues, surgery might be right for you. To learn more about your surgical options and what to expect from the procedure, call (305) 381-8837 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Baker today.