10 Main Causes Of Gynecomastia

Have you ever heard of Gynecomastia? Yes, I know it’s a mouthful and if this is the first time you’re seeing the word, it might take a while getting used to it. You have probably seen men and young boys with large breasts.

Perhaps, you have even teased and bullied them because of the abnormal size of the chest. This condition is called gynecomastia, and it has a prevalence rate of 1 in 18 people in the United States alone.

Some people have asked what causes Gynecomastia, and why men grow breasts like women. This guide will answer those questions. However, it is important to understand what the condition truly is, the various forms in which it exists, and every other information you need to know about it.

What is Gynecomastia?

I know that we’re not all medical practitioners and scientists, so I’m going to explain this in the simplest way possible. Gynecomastia is simply a medical condition that causes the enlargement or swelling of male breast tissues.

It happens in both men and boys, as the breasts develop larger than normal, and sometimes unevenly. It is prevalent in boys, aged 10 and 14 when they experience hormonal changes during puberty, and is also common amongst newborns and older men.

Gynecomastia is said to be genuine when breast enlargement in men is as a result of breast tissue growth. On the other hand, it is called pseudogynecomastia when the enlargement is caused by a buildup of fat around the areola. Gynecomastia in teenagers will likely go away as they approach adulthood.

The changes are usually brought about by hormonal activities, especially the dominance of estrogen during puberty. In adult men, it is more severe and will not go away naturally.

So what Causes Gynecomastia?

There are a number of factors responsible for gynecomastia. Here are some general categories of men with gynecomastia.

Men who naturally develop Gynecomastia​: This group refers to men who simply have a dominance of estrogen in their hormonal balance. It could be a genetically-motivated condition or a medical condition where an extra X chromosome is present in a man.

Men who didn't have post cycle therapy after using steroids; since steroids have a way of distorting hormonal balance and suppressing the normal production of testosterone, estrogen becomes the dominant hormone. This is expressed in a man having large breast tissues, amongst other things.

Men who developed the disease after taking a certain medication; several drugs have been identified as having elements that can alter hormonal balance in men and lead to gynecomastia.

Men who developed gynecomastia from using drugs like marijuana; intake of marijuana, steroids, and heroin have also been identified as causes of gynecomastia.

For clarity, let’s take a look at 10 Major Specific Causes of Gynecomastia;

01. Excess Estrogen:

Estrogen is a female hormone, but when men begin to produce an excess amount of this hormone, he’s bound to exhibit feminine signs. One of such signs is the development of large breasts. Most of the other causes of gynecomastia can still be traced back to excess estrogen production, which in turn leads to abnormal development of breast tissues in men.

It is perfectly normal for men to have some amount of estrogen in the body. However, when this amount becomes abnormally large, there is a problem. This hormonal imbalance should be a cause for concern, especially in medium built men between 21 and 50 years old. When it happens before or after this age bracket, there is often not so much to worry about. It is most likely pubertal or the kind that is common in older men.

There are several factors; lifestyle, habits and diets, as well as medical conditions that can cause hormonal imbalance in men. Let’s take a brief look at some of them;

02. Foods:

There are certain foods that we eat every day that are very rich in estrogen. We are oblivious of this fact, but consuming large volumes of these foods can greatly increase estrogen volumes in men. These foods include beans, peas, tofu, soybean, sesame seeds, dried fruits, etc.

03. Malnutrition:

A lot of people do not know this, but malnutrition can actually cause gynecomastia. When you do not eat as much as you should, your body is unable to produce sufficient testosterone. With no change to the amount of estrogen, it becomes the dominant hormone in the body and can cause gynecomastia.

04. Medications:

Unfortunately, some medications that we take can also cause gynecomastia. Normal pills that we take for stomach disorders such as metronidazole, and flutamide have a way of reacting with our hormones and cause estrogen spike that can lead to enlarged breast tissues in men. Other drugs that can cause gynecomastia are bicalutamide, methotrexate, penicillamine, digoxin, phytoestrogens, and several others.

05. Marijuana:

Marijuana contains elements that distorts the hormonal mechanism in humans. This can lead to estrogen conversion, and most likely gynecomastia. Doctors have observed in recent times that most patients with the disease are constant users of marijuana. This is why some teenagers grow into adulthood without shedding off their pubertal gynecomastia. Doctors found they continuously used marijuana.

06. Kidney Failure:

The kidney is an important organ in the human body. It is responsible for filtering substances in the body. When there is a failure, the kidney is unable to carry out this duty and would usually result in hormonal reactions and dysfunction. Again, the production of testosterone is significantly suppressed, and unable to compete with the unchanged estrogen levels. When this occurs, gynecomastia is almost inevitable.

07. Hyperthyroidism:

Thyroid hormones are produced by the thyroid gland. Sometimes, it is possible for this gland to become hyperactive in both men and women and the consequences are often very obvious. In men, it is a medically verified cause of gynecomastia. However, if detected early enough and treated in good time, the disease can be reversed. Hyperthyroidism is not a strange condition, but a lot of people are not aware of its symptoms.

08. Klinefelter Syndrome:

This is another typical medical condition in men that causes gynecomastia. It is characterized by a disorder where a man has an additional X chromosome. If you remember your basic science, you should know that the X chromosome Is feminine and this disease is typically represented as XXY. Men affected by klinefelter syndrome would normally have small testes and produce insufficient testosterone.

Other symptoms would include incomplete puberty, reduced body hair and even infertility.

09. Steroids:

A lot of times, people are the architects of their own problems. They laugh off certain medical truths only to learn the hard way. But if you listen to the stories of some steroid users, you will understand. It is not the use of steroid in itself that causes gynecomastia, but when it is not followed by a post cycle therapy to flush out excess estrogens, then you’re inviting it.

When you continually take anabolic steroids, and fail to cycle off at the right time, or at all, you’re bound to have breast tissue growth. Apart from gynecomastia, several other conditions like water retention can occur when such steroid users fail to flush off. The steroid cycle alters the hormonal balance in a man, leading to the suppression of testosterone production, and consequently the dominance of estrogen, which causes gynecomastia.

10. Galactorrhoea-Hyperprolactinemia:

This is another cause of gynecomastia that is rarely talked about. It is a condition that is common in both men and women. It is characterized by abnormal milk secretion (galactorrhoea) and increased blood prolactin levels. Some medications, thyroid anomalies, and pituitary disorders can cause this condition, which can manifest in large breasts in men as a result of excess production of breast tissue.

Other known symptoms of galactorrhoea hyperprolactinemia include reduced libido, sexual malfunction, infertility, and several others.

There are many other causes of gynecomastia that have not been captured here. Some medical conditions and diseases such as lung cancer, obesity, liver diseases, trauma and even testicular cancer can make men show symptoms of gynecomastia.

Gynecomastia in Older Men

Gynecomastia is also common in men above 50 years. In fact, available statistics show that over 70 percent of men above 50 years suffer from gynecomastia. The prevalence can be traced to most naturally occurring factors, including changes in hormonal functionality. Most men above that age no longer engage in physical activities and would no longer burn as much fat.

Scientifically, it has been proven that older men suffer deficiency in the production of testosterone. With little or no testosterone, there’s bound to be hormonal imbalance, which would lead to estrogen dominance, and eventually, gynecomastia. This is the most accepted scientific explanation for its prevalence in aged men. The evident sign is a swollen or enlarged breast, as a result of gathered tissues.

The condition is said to affect 1 in 4 men between the ages of 50 and 69. Apart from the deficiency that occurs naturally, men within this age group who take any of the triggering medications or take marijuana, heroin, or steroids also face greater risk of gynecomastia. The risk is higher because this group is already vulnerable to the condition by virtue of natural hormonal reactions.

Frequently Asked Questions

There are some misconceptions that surround gynecomastia. I will address them by answering some of the common questions that the subject attracts.

  1. Is Gynecomastia Deadly?

On it’s own, gynecomastia is not a deadly disorder. However, if it is a symptom of a more serious disease or ailment, such as kidney disease, and testicular or lung cancer, it could be deadly.

  1. Is Gynecomastia Painful?

Although, gynecomastia is not an acute problem, but it can cause some pain and discomfort. Men and boys with the condition sometimes experience pains on their chest. Also, it is quite embarrassing for a man to grow breasts like women.

  1. How can I know I have Gynecomastia?

The good thing about gynecomastia is that there is a physical sign. When a man has breasts tissues greater than 0.5cm, it could mean the presence of gynecomastia. The glandular tissue will usually gather around the nipple and can be diagnosed through physical examination.

  1. Is it Treatable?

Gynecomastia can be treated with the use of medications, creams, exercises, and selected diet. Other times, surgical treatments could be required.

Treatment of Gynecomastia

Doctors will often tell you that gynecomastia, as a condition, will not kill you. This doesn't often erase the physical pain and psychological effect it could cause. There is no way any man would be comfortable moving around with large boobs. It often elicits some form of ridicule that could lead to embarrassment. This is why it should be treated. There are two forms;

Treatment without Surgery:

01. Medications- There are several medications (pills) available on the market for the treatment of gynecomastia. You will find many of them in authorized stores online. However, it is important to get prescription from your doctor before you take any drug, so as not to worsen the situation.

02. Exercising- The breast tissues that cause enlargement or swelling are usually made up of fatty tissue. Just as exercising can help build body mass and shed fat, there are specific workouts that can help a man lose his boobs. There are mild exercises that are meant to tighten chest muscles and shed off the fat around the nipples. Some of them include; pushups, incline presses with dumbbells, seated row, and interval training.

​03. Dieting- This is another simple treatment for gynecomastia. As you already know, it is caused by excess lipids around and beneath the nipples. Naturally, you should be able to get rid of it if you cut down on your fat intake. Stick to a low-fat diet and burn off the excess fat and calories. This will also help speed up the fat-burning process if you’re already taking pills.

04. Topical (Cream/Supplement) Treatment- Another known form of treatment is the use of creams. It is preferred by a number of people because the ​supplements/cream are affordable, accessible, and easy to use. Besides, it is a noninvasive treatment, making it less risky. ​These are also painless and would normally be the first choice for men who want to reduce their breasts.

Gynexin is a popular in this industry.

Treatment with Surgery:

If after all other methods have been tried, and there is still no sign of reduction, it could be a case of cancerous tissues. Surgery could just be the only other option. Your chest would need to be cut open for the tissues to be removed. For many people, this is usually the last option because it is expensive and involves more risk and pains.

Also, surgery could be the right option for people who just cannot wait to get rid of the extra weight on their chest. Some men may not have the patience that pills and creams would require, so they just opt for surgery.

​The Bottom Line

Now you know the causes of Gynecomastia and why men grow breasts like women. If you’re a man and you have abnormally large breasts, now you know what the problem is. There is no need to panic.

Just go over your medical history to see if you have any of the medical conditions I discussed. For you, it could just be a normal hormonal imbalance. But you should see your doctor to be sure.

Otherwise, the next time you see a teenage boy with large breasts, you would think again before you tease him. Plus, you know why men have breasts like women and you might want to flaunt your knowledge. There’s no problem with that- just don't go about prescribing treatments. Gynecomastia is not deadly, but should be given attention.

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