Gynecomastia Explained


Dr Bernard Beldholm

Moobs…man boobs…etc. No matter what you call them, for a lot of men, having enlarged breasts isn’t exactly on the top of their wish list. Gynecomastia, however, is an embarrassing medical condition that many men do, in fact, suffer from. According to a studying the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, at least 30 percent of men suffer from chest development that can resemble the appearance of female breasts. So if you suffer from this condition, know that you’re not alone!

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The Effects

Contrary to what some critics may say, gynecomastia is more than just a cosmetic issue. Although this condition is quite common among men, the physiological trauma associated with gynaecomastia can be quite devastating. Consider this. In any one year, around 1 million Australian adults suffer from depression. Some studies suggest this condition can fuel anxiety, depression and embarrassment in males. If left untreated, the mental damage stemming from this condition can become lasting and detrimental to a man’s overall wellbeing.

The Symptoms

It’s important to know that gynecomastia shouldn’t be confused with the kind of large breasts caused by an excess of fat cells commonly seen in overweight men. Men who suffer from this medical condition actually produce the same kind of breast cells found in women. The shape and distribution of those cells results in a chest that looks more female rather than overweight. So how do you know if you’re suffering from gynecomastia? These are some of the symptoms to look for:

  • swollen breast gland tissue
  • breast tenderness
  • enlarged breasts
  • a lump of fatty tissue under the nipple
  • asymmetrical chest tissue
  • areolas that have increased in diameter

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Who Gets It

No matter how old or young you might be, men at any age can be at risk for gynecomastia. In fact, more than half of all male infants are born with enlarged breasts due to the effects of their mother’s estrogen. Generally, the swollen breast tissue goes away within two to three weeks after birth. During puberty more than half of all healthy males will develop gynaecomastia, with the enlarged breast tissue usually reducing in size over time. The prevalence of gynecomastia peaks again between the ages of 50 and 69. At least 1 in 4 men in this age group are affected.

What Causes It

Simply being male isn’t the only risk factor that can make an individual susceptible to gynecomastia.  A lot of other things can trigger the medical condition, too. They include:

  • Medications:  Some medications can affect the ratio of oestrogen and testosterone in a variety of ways. These can include: anti-androgens, antibiotics, heart medications, ulcer medications, AIDS medications, anti-anxiety medications, tricyclic antidepressants, gastric motility medications, etc.
  • Street drugs and alcohol: Substances that can cause gynaecomastia include: alcohol, amphetamines, marijuana, heroin and methadone.
  • Health conditions: Some health conditions can cause gynecomastia by affecting the normal balance of hormones. These include: kidney failure, liver failure and cirrhosis, hyperthyroidism, Klinefelter’s syndrome, hypogonadism, adrenal and pituitary gland tumors, ageing, etc.
  • Herbal products: According to the Mayo Clinic, plant oils, such as tea tree or lavender, used in shampoos, soaps or lotions have been associated with gynecomastia.

To reduce the risk of gynecomastia, avoid alcohol, illegal drugs and carefully examine your medications. Also, if possible, avoid certain herbal products.

The Diagnosis

Gynecomastia causes boys’ and men’s breasts to swell and become larger than normal. If you suspect that you are suffering from this condition, you should contact your general practitioner for an official diagnosis.  If your GP suspects you are, in fact, suffering from this condition, he or she will probably examine you to make sure there are no hard lumps, oozing fluid, or skin problems that could be signs of cancer. During the consultation, your GP will also likely ask you some questions about your medical history. Those questions might include:

  • What types of medications do you take?
  • How often do you consume alcohol?
  • Do you suffer from any medical conditions?
  • Are you taking any illegal drugs?

To check for problems affecting your hormones, your GP may ask you to take a blood or urine test. He or she may also have you take an X-ray of your breast or mammogram. A small sample of tissue may also be taken to look for signs of cancer.

Treating The Condition

How to effectively treat gynecomastia will depend on your age, your health, your response to certain medications as well as how long you’re suffered from the condition. In some cases, the condition may go away on its on–especially for adolescent males. If out-of-balance hormones are the culprit, medication may be prescribed in order to address and correct the imbalance. Some medications use to reduce gynecomastia include clomiphene, danazol and tamoxifen. There are some instances, however, where surgery may be the next step.

Gynecomastia Surgery

If you’ve suffered from gynaecomastia for a long time or the condition hasn’t responded well to other treatments, a GP may refer you to an experienced surgeon to discuss the possibility of surgery. Gynecomastia surgery involves the surgical correction of overdeveloped or enlarged breasts in men. During the procedure, liposuction is performed to remove excess fatty tissue. A surgeon will also cut the gland out through a small incision around the bottom of the areola. This usually leads to a noticeable reduction in breast size and an improvement in the chest contours. The good news is that this procedure is generally safe, and the risks are few. The downtime for recovery is also usually minimal. For a lot of patients, it provides a chest that is considered more “manly.”

Do You Need Our Help?

When choosing a surgeon, it’s important to go with a practice that specialises in gynaecomastia surgery. Dr Bernard Beldholm has performed hundreds of gynecomastia surgeries on men. He and his friendly staff are dedicated to helping patients reach their cosmetic goals. Contact us today to find out we can help you. If you have any questions or would like to book an appointment, call us at (02) 4934 5700.

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30 Belmore Rd
Lorn NSW 2320


This website contains adult content. You must be 18 years or over to read. All surgery carries risks. You should seek a second opinion before proceeding. Results vary from patient to patient. See our disclaimer.
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