Learn how an imbalance of the hormones estrogen and testosterone can cause breast tissue swelling in boys or men.
Gynecomastia (guy-nuh-koh-MAS-tee-uh) is an increase in the amount of breast gland tissue in boys or men. An imbalance of the hormones estrogen and testosterone causes it. Gynecomastia can affect one or both breasts, sometimes unevenly.
Pseudogynecomastia is an increase in fat but not gland tissue in male breasts.
Newborns, boys going through puberty and older men may develop gynecomastia due to natural changes in hormone levels. There are other causes too.
Most often, gynecomastia isn't a serious problem. But it can be tough to cope with the condition. People with gynecomastia sometimes have pain in their breasts. And they may feel embarrassed.
Gynecomastia may go away on its own. If it doesn't, medicine or surgery may help.
Gynecomastia symptoms can include:
See a member of your health care team if you have:
In people assigned male at birth, the body mainly makes the sex hormone testosterone. It also makes small amounts of the hormone estrogen. Gynecomastia can happen when the amount of testosterone in the body drops compared with estrogen. The decrease can be caused by conditions that lower testosterone or block its effects. Or it can be caused by conditions that raise the estrogen level.
Some things that can change the body's hormone balance include the following:
The hormones testosterone and estrogen control sex traits. Testosterone controls traits such as muscle mass and body hair. Estrogen controls traits that include the growth of breasts.
Estrogen levels that are too high or are out of balance with testosterone levels can cause gynecomastia.
The following medicines can cause gynecomastia:
Substances that can cause gynecomastia include:
Certain health conditions that affect the balance of hormones can either cause or be linked with gynecomastia. They include:
Some plant oils used in shampoos, soaps or lotions have been associated with gynecomastia. These include tea tree or lavender oil. This likely is due to compounds in the oil that may mimic estrogen or affect testosterone.
Risk factors for gynecomastia include:
Gynecomastia has few physical complications. But it may lead to mental health concerns due to changes in how the chest looks.
Several factors within your control may lower the risk of gynecomastia:
To find out if you have gynecomastia, a member of your health care team starts by asking you some questions. For example, you'll likely be asked about your symptoms and any medicines you take. You're also given a medical exam to check your breast tissue, stomach area and genitals.
Your health care team likely will order tests. These can help find a possible cause of gynecomastia or look for conditions that can cause similar symptoms. Tests also may be done to check for breast cancer. You may need exams such as:
Your health care team will want to be sure that your breast swelling is gynecomastia and not another condition. Other conditions that can cause similar symptoms include:
Gynecomastia often goes away over time without treatment. But if gynecomastia is caused by a medical condition, that condition may need treatment.
If you take medicine that may be the cause of gynecomastia, ask your health care team about your choices. Your doctor may have you stop the medicine or try a different one.
Often, no treatment is needed for teenagers who have gynecomastia due to natural hormone changes during puberty. A teen's health care team may recommend checkups every 3 to 6 months to see if the condition is getting better on its own. Gynecomastia in teens often goes away without treatment in less than two years.
Treatment may be needed if gynecomastia doesn't get better on its own. Treatment also can help if the condition causes pain, tenderness or embarrassment.
Medicines used to treat breast cancer and other conditions may be helpful for some adults with gynecomastia. They include:
In the United States, these medicines are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. But they have not been approved specifically for use in people with gynecomastia.
You may still have enlarged breasts after waiting for gynecomastia to go away on its own or after taking medicine for it. If your appearance or other symptoms bother you, surgery may be a treatment choice:
Two gynecomastia surgery options are:
For people with gynecomastia, having enlarged breasts can be stressful and embarrassing. The condition can be hard to hide. Sometimes, it can be a challenge to romantic relationships. During puberty, gynecomastia can make teens a target for teasing from peers as well. It can make activities such as swimming or changing in the locker room traumatic.
Whatever your age, if you have gynecomastia, you might feel unhappy with your body. But you can take steps that may help you cope: