Enlarged Breast Tissue in Men
True gynecomastia is an enlargement of the male breast gland because of a hormonal imbalance, but the appearance of enlarged may breasts may be ascribed to pseudogynecomastia, a symptom of excess fat which deposits on the chest.
It can be common and temporary in boys going through puberty
Treatment of gynecomastia may involve medication or surgery.
Gynecomastia definition and facts
- Gynecomastia is enlargement of the glandular tissue of the male breast.
- The condition may occur during infancy and puberty in normally-developing boys.
- Gynecomastia results from an imbalance in the hormonal environment in the body, with a relative excess of estrogens (female hormones) when compared to androgens (male hormones).
- The causes of the gynecomastia can result as a side effect of numerous medications and drugs of abuse, for example:
- The problem also is associated with certain medical conditions and treatments, for example:
- Medications and surgical treatments can be used to treat the problem.
What is gynecomastia (enlarged male breasts)?
Gynecomastia is enlargement of the gland tissue of the male breast. During infancy, puberty, and in middle-aged to older men, gynecomastia can be common. Gynecomastia must be distinguished from pseudogynecomastia or lipomastia, which refers to the presence of fat deposits in the breast area of obese men. True gynecomastia results from growth of the glandular, or breast tissue, which is present in very small amounts in men. The condition is the most common reason for medical evaluation of the male breast.
What are the signs and symptoms of gynecomastia?
The primary symptom of gynecomastia is enlargement of the male breasts. As mentioned before, gynecomastia is the enlargement of glandular tissue rather than fatty tissue. It is typically symmetrical in location with regard to the nipple and may have a rubbery or firm feel. Gynecomastia usually occurs on both sides but can be unilateral in some cases. The enlargement may be greater on one side even if both sides are involved. Tenderness and sensitivity may be present, although there is typically no severe pain.
The most important distinction with gynecomastia is differentiation from male breast cancer, which accounts for about 1% of overall cases of breast cancer. Cancer is usually confined to one side, is not necessarily centered around the nipple, feels hard or firm, and can be associated with dimpling of the skin, retraction of the nipple, nipple discharge, and enlargement of the underarm (axillary) lymph nodes.
Who gets gynecomastia?
Normally-developing pubertal males may be at risk for gynecomastia that is part of the normal developmental process. Normal male infants also may have gynecomastia.
Other risk factors include:
- Aging, since aging may promote decreases in testosterone production that can cause the problem.
- The risks for developing enlarged male breasts related to specific diseases and conditions (such as cirrhosis of the liver) are the same risk factors that predispose to those conditions.
- Taking certain medications may increase the risk of developing the problem.
What does gynecomastia look like?
Illustration of Enlarged Male Breasts (Gynecomastia)
Picture of male on the left with no gynecomastia and the male on the right with gynecomastia
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/18/2017