In layman terms, gynecomastia refers to the condition in males whereby their breast tissues undergo immoderate growth thus leading to enlargement of their chest. Gynecomastia is a combination of two Greek words:
- Gyanik _ means female
- Mastos_ means breast
Thus, gynecomastia refers to female breasts. This condition is neither fatal nor does it affect the routine life of a man. However, it is extremely harmful to the self-confidence of any individual as it makes them conscious of their appearance and ashamed of their own body.
Who Suffers From Gynecomastia?
Statistics from the US manifest that about thirty-six per cent of young males suffer from this problem as compared to a massive 57% of older males. As much as three million cases of gynecomastia are reported annually.
Ranging from embarrassment to poor self-esteem, there are a number of reasons why the men suffering from gynecomastia are reluctant to share their plight with their family members. The ultimate result is that the men who are forced to live with this condition may suffer in their sexual life for the fear of being ridiculed may affect their relation with their partner.
Old Adult U.S. Men
Young Adult U.S. Men
Gynecomastia can appear during three stages of life vis-à-vis when the individual is a baby, an adolescent (particularly after the onset of puberty) and late adulthood (specifically after 55 years of age). Pubertal Gynecomastia refers to the appearance of the condition in puberty stage. This condition is not permanent and by the time boys reach their adulthood, the extra breast tissue disappears.
The abnormal gynecomastia refers to the condition whereby the excess breast tissue that appeared during the adolescence does not flatten out. The persistence of excess breast tissue in adulthood is the confirmation of the presence of gynecomastia. Thus, it will require some specific medical attention to eliminate the root cause of this problem.
Types of Gynecomastia
Gynecomastia is classified depending upon the size of extra breast tissue as well feminization of the breast. Type 1 refers to the smallest breast size while 4 being the most apparent size of breast with skin redundancy and thus a marked feminization of male breast.
|Grade or Type||Description||Severity|
|1||A localized button of tissue that is concentrated around the areola||Very mild|
|2||Moderate breast enlargement exceeding areola boundaries with edges that are indistinct from the chest||Mild to high|
|3||Moderate breast enlargement exceeding areola boundaries with edges that are distinct from the chest with skin redundancy present||High and visible|
|4||Marked breast enlargement with skin redundancy and feminization of the breast||Severe and visibly feminine|
Causes of Gynecomastia
The major causing factors of gynecomastia include increased estorgen levels, use of steroisds and other such chemicals including drug abuse etc. The normal amount of estrogen, a female hormone, in males is very low however the patients of gynecomastia have an enhanced level of estrogen in their blood thus feminizing their body. The most evident effect of estrogen is the feminization of breast. Other main causes include drug abuse, especially marijuana addicts, or even due to chemotherapy. If a patient profile does not fit any of these conditions, the case is referred to as the idiopathic one. Thus, the research continues to find out more about gynecomastia and its causes.
Estrogen-the Female Hormone
The presence of high levels of estrogen in the male body is the primary cause of gynecomastia in most cases. This prevalence of female hormone in male bodies can lead to the feminization of male chest by increasing the growth of the breast tissue. Enhanced aromatose action i.e. the transition of male hormones to female ones, can aggravate the problem.
Occurrence of gynecomastia, especially among the bodybuilders, is the result of high use of steroids. The most prominent effect of steroid use is that it alters the testosterone and estrogen balance in the body thus leading to an enhanced level of estrogen in the body and hence causing gynecomastia. In that respect, it is important to realize that prevention is better than cure. Thus, the steroid use must be regulated and monitored by the bodybuilders to avoid the occurrence of this problem.
Klinefelter Syndrome refers to a genetic abnormality whereby the individuals have an extra X chromosome. Since a normal male is an XY combination while a normal female has an XX chromosomal combination, the presence of this extra female chromosome “X” can lead to appearance of feminization traits. Hence, the individuals with Klinefelter syndrome are 20 times more prone to gynecomastia.
Thyroid is one of the major hormone producing glands in the human body. Hyperactivity of thyroid gland can cause hyperthyroidism i.e. the enhanced production of the thyroid hormones. This condition usually occurs in females, however, it can also occur in men and can become an underlying cause of gynecomastia.
The testosterone levels in male body drop with age, thus tilting the hormonal balance in favour of estrogen. Estrogen can lead to gynecomastia and it is one of the major causes of the occurrence of this disease in late adulthood.
About twenty-five percent of the reported gynecomastia cases are caused by the overindulgence in drugs. The drug abuse can actually lead to enhanced production of estrogen in body which can then cause gynecomastia.
Diagnosis of Gynecomastia
Gynecomastia can be diagnosed in a number of ways ranging from external examination by a doctor to the scanning of the breast tissue. For external examination, the patient is told to lie flat on his back. The patient rests his head on his clasped hands. The examiner gradually brings his forefinger and thumb together from each side of the breast. If gynecomastia is present then the a rather rubbery mound of tissue around nipple is felt, else no such occurrence of disc-like breast tissue is found.
The gynecomastia treatment differs in terms of temporary and permanent relief as well as expenditure.
The most inexpensive treatment of gynecomastia is the use of gynecomastia shirts. They help to mask the problem and do not offer a permanent solution. This option is very cheao as compared to other treatment options for gynecomastia. The gynecomastia shirts are discreetly shipped to the patient doorstep and are often used by the patients before they opt for a relatively permanent solution, even if just to see what difference would it make to go for a permanent solution.
Gynecomastia pills are another treatment option available to the patients of gynecomastia. This treatment method is way cheaper than surgery. The effects are quite obvious in 90% of the cases.
The last option for gynecomastia patients is to go for gynecomastia surgery. The treatment is costly but the end result is miraculous.
Breast enlargement vs. gynecomastia
Sometimes, the cause of breat enlargement is nothing but the fat accumulation. This is called pseudogynecomastia. As opposed to it, mixed gynecomastia refers to the condition whereby the cause of breast enlargement is enhanced growth of breast tissue as well as collection of fats. Many times, the cases of gynecomastia are actually mixed gynecomastia and it is quite difficult to draw a clear distinctive line between the two of them.