The Different Causes of Gynecomastia

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  • The use of certain medications is also believed to trigger breast tissue swelling. In fact, 10 to 20 percent of gynecomastia cases arise as a side effect of pharmaceutical drugs
  • When estrogen production of men becomes too high, or if testosterone production is depleted, an imbalance occurs. This leads to gynecomastia

There is not just one cause of gynecomastia. In fact, there are several primary reasons why this problem occurs among men and boys. Keep reading to find out what triggers this condition to manifest in boys and men.

Hormone Imbalance Is Usually the Primary Culprit

There are two primary hormones that are responsible for the development and maintenance of sex characteristics in men and women: testosterone and estrogen. Testosterone, the male hormone, is responsible for masculine traits such as muscle mass and body hair, while estrogen, the female hormone, controls feminine traits like breast growth.

Contrary to what many believe, men actually produce both testosterone and estrogen — although the latter in smaller quantities. Since testosterone is the dominant hormone, it then efficiently stops estrogen from causing the breast tissues to grow.

However, when estrogen production of men becomes too high, or if testosterone production is depleted, an imbalance occurs. This leads to gynecomastia. Since pubescent boys and elderly males are prone to these hormone fluctuations, they are usually the age groups affected by gynecomastia.

However, over half of newborn male infants may experience gynecomastia as well, usually after delivery. This is mainly because of the estrogen they receive from their mother. However, the swelling goes away within two to three weeks after birth.1

Medications May Lead to Gynecomastia

The use of certain medications is also believed to trigger breast tissue swelling. In fact, 10 to 20 percent of gynecomastia cases arise as a side effect of pharmaceutical drugs.2 Some examples of medications that can prompt gynecomastia include:

Anabolic steroids and androgens

Anti-androgens that are used for treating prostate cancer and prostate enlargement

AIDS medications, usually associated with a treatment known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART)

Anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants

Antibiotics

Chemotherapy drugs

Ulcer medications

Gastric motility drugs

Heart medications and calcium channel blockers

Other Diseases and Conditions That May Trigger Gynecomastia

While having excess fat tissue in the breasts is not exactly true gynecomastia, and is in fact pesudogynecomastia or lipomastia, obesity may lead to breast swelling. This is because being very overweight can boost the production of estrogen, which can then prompt growth of breast tissues.3 Other conditions that may trigger breast tissue growth include:4

  • Tumors: Certain tumors involving the testes, pituitary gland and adrenal glands can create hormones that disrupt the testosterone-estrogen balance.
  • Hyperthyroidism: This is when the thyroid gland produces excessive amounts of the hormone thyroxine.
  • Cirrhosis and liver failure: Certain medications for this condition can trigger gynecomastia. Liver problems may also cause hormonal fluctuations.
  • Hypogonadism: Illnesses that affect normal testosterone production, such as pituitary insufficiency or Klinefelter’s syndrome, can lead to gynecomastia.
  • Starvation and malnutrition: If you do not get enough nutrition, your testosterone levels drop, while your levels of estrogen stay constant.

Certain herbal remedies have also been associated with gynecomastia, particularly tea tree oil and lavender oil. These are often used in skin care products. Unhealthy lifestyle choices like excessive alcohol intake and using illegal drugs5 may also prompt breast swelling.

MORE ABOUT GYNECOMASTIA

Gynecomastia: Introduction

What Is Gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia Symptoms

Gynecomastia Causes

Gynecomastia Types

Gynecomastia Treatment

Gynecomastia Surgery

Gynecomastia Diet

Gynecomastia Prevention

Gynecomastia FAQ



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