Male breasts, or what many refer to as “man boobs,” aren’t really as rare as some may think. In fact, about one out of four men aged over 50 will find their breasts slightly enlarged as they grow older. They are also quite common in boys going through puberty. While they do not usually pose any health problems, they can cause psychological effects and impair one’s self-confidence.
Here, we discuss what exactly male breasts are, their potential causes, and possible solutions. With a better understanding of this condition, you can take the necessary steps to prevent it or find the best remedy for it.
What are Male Breasts?
Men also have breast tissues. Unlike women, however, the breast tissues in men are not typically enlarged. But, some men may experience tissue expansion due to hormonal changes, medications, or underlying medical conditions. This enlargement of breast tissues in men is referred to as gynecomastia.
Male breasts are usually harmless, but they may also cause tenderness due to swollen tissues. They are quite common in newborns, boys going through puberty, and men aged 50 to 80.
Potential Causes of Gynecomastia
1. Hormonal Changes
The most common cause for the development of male breasts is an imbalance in the production of estrogen and testosterone. Hormonal changes during puberty can cause breast tissues to swell when estrogen levels increases. This usually goes away without requiring any treatment, but it may last from six months to two years. In older men, male breasts appear when testosterone levels start to decrease at around the age of 50.
Regular consumption of certain medications can also cause male breasts. Some medications that are known to cause breast tissue enlargement include:
· Digoxin, calcium channel blockers, and other medicines for heart conditions
· Some medications for gastroesophageal problems including metoclopramide and cimetidine
· Flutamide, finasteride, spironolactone, and other antiandrogens used for the treatment of prostate cancer and other conditions
· Anabolic steroids and androgens used to build muscle and enhance endurance
· Some anxiolytics like diazepam, tricyclic antidepressants, and psychiatric medications
3. Health conditions
Men who have underlying health conditions that affect hormonal balance can also experience gynecomastia. These include hypogonadism, tumors in the adrenal or pituitary glands, tumors in the testes, hyperthyroidism, and liver or kidney diseases. In some cases, malnutrition can also result to male breasts.
4. Excess fat deposits
Enlarged breasts due to excess fat are called pseudogynecomastia. Instead of hard lumps in the areola region, the entire breast is evenly enlarged. This is what many people call man boobs.
How to Deal with Male Breasts
While male breasts pose no severe effects on health, men may feel uncomfortable or even embarrassed because of them. Fortunately, there are many possible treatments for it.
1. Exercise and Healthy Diet
For pseudogynecomastia, a combination of diet and exercise can reduce the excess fat stores. A change to healthy eating habits can reduce overall weight. Chest exercises can also develop chest muscles and improve tone.
Some medications used to treat breast cancer may also be effective in treating gynecomastia. However, there are currently no medications approved by the FDA specifically for gynecomastia. You must consult your doctor if you are considering any off-label treatment.
3. Testosterone replacement therapy
Patches, skin gels, or injections that increase the level of testosterone in the body can help reduce male breasts. But they should never be used by men who have breast or prostate cancer. Moreover, they also cause side effects, including obstructive sleep apnea and heightened risk for cardiovascular diseases.
4. Cosmetic and surgical procedures
For male breasts due to excessive fat, liposuction can remove the excess fat without damaging the skin or muscles. For gynecomastia, male breast reduction is the most effective treatment that removes glandular breast tissue.
Don’t Let Male Breasts Put You Down
Having male breasts is not the end of the world. They are preventable and treatable. Live a healthy lifestyle by eating the right food and exercising regularly. Avoid drinking alcohol and using illegal drugs. Check if your medications cause hormonal imbalance, and ask your doctor for alternatives. If you’re already dealing with enlarged breasts, consult a doctor for possible medication or surgical procedures.