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What Is Gynecomastia?

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  • Basically, gynecomastia, also called “man boobs,” is a common condition that prompts the breasts of boys and men to swell to a size that’s larger than normal. The name comes from the Greek words “gynaika” and “mastos,” which mean “female” and “breasts,” respectively. Hence, gynecomastia means a man who has female breasts
  • It’s said that at least half of adolescent boys and up to two-thirds of men ages 50 and older will experience some degree of gynecomastia in their life. In the U.S., statistics show that 36 percent of adult young men and 57 percent of older adult men have this condition

All males are born with breast tissue, but in smaller amounts than in females. In fact, both women and men have breast glands, but in the latter, they are usually unnoticeable, as they are small and undeveloped.1,2 However, this is not the case if you have gynecomastia.

Basically, gynecomasia, also called "man boobs," is a common condition that prompts the breasts of boys and men to swell to a size that's larger than normal. The name comes from the Greek words "gynaik" and "mastos," which mean "female" and "breasts," respectively. Hence, gynecomastia means a man who has female breasts.3 Males in their teen years are prone to gynecomastia, although older men may also experience it.4

At What Age Does Gynecomastia Occur?

Gynecomastia that is asymptomatic is a common condition. Men can experience it during three phases of their life: in infancy, during puberty and in their senior years.

In infants, the prevalence of gynecomastia is between 60 and 90 percent. Meanwhile, 50 to 60 percent of adolescents may experience this. Among those ages 50 to 69 years old, 70 percent is said to have gynecomastia.5,6

What Triggers Gynecomastia and What Are Its Telltale Symptoms?

There are many potential causes that can lead to gynecomastia, but the primary risk factor is when the balance of the two hormones in the body is thrown off. Male bodies normally produce the testosterone hormone, which is essential to their sexual growth when puberty strikes. However, they also produce a certain amount of estrogen, which is the female sexual hormone.

In certain instances, such as when a boy is going through puberty or during a man's senior years (where he produces less testosterone), the balance between these two hormones change, prompting the breast glands to swell and enlarge.7 Obviously, the primary symptom of gynecomastia is the swelling of the breast gland tissue. It may also come with breast tenderness. The diameter of the areola, or the pigmented skin surrounding the nipple, may also increase in size.8

However, please note that gynecomastia is not the same as pseudogynecomastia or lipomastia. These two refer to a condition wherein there are high amounts of fat deposits in the breast area, usually seen in obese men. True gynecomastia refers to the growth of glandular or breast tissue itself.9

In addition, the symmetry of the condition may also differ, which is why gynecomastia may be referred to as either bilateral or unilateral gynecomastia. Bilateral is when both breasts are enlarged, while unilateral gynecomastia, also called asymmetric gynecomastia,10 is when only one breast is swollen, and the other is normal in terms of size and shape.

Gynecomastia Is Not a Life-Threatening Condition, but It Can Be Extremely Embarrassing

Gynecomastia is not dangerous, and it's considered to be a benign condition. However, a very, very small percentage of gynecomastia may arise because of other underlying health problems, such as a tumor.

Nevertheless, gynecomastia can be extremely embarrassing, especially for pubescent boys. It often prevents them from forming relationships and leads them to become socially distant or to shut out other people, for fear of being ridiculed. The good news is that gynecomastia can go away on its own, and that there are certain ways to minimize its appearance, to help bring back a boy's or a man's confidence.11


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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