The word, Gynecomastia, has a Greek root which means “woman like breasts”. This is not uncommon in men. The condition could affect either one or both the breasts. There are many possible causes why this develops in men, but whatever the reason, it is quite embarrassing for a man to have “man boobs”, as it is crudely referred to. Especially in young men, who would like to develop abs and often, in dressing rooms after games, it is very uncomfortable for them to change shirts in front of their friends. It is good to go in for natural treatment where ever possible or have surgical procedures to have normal breast sizes restored.
Causes of Gynecomastia
The development of enlarged breasts in men can be attributed to many different factors and no single exact medical cause can be pinpointed. Often, it is a combination of several factors that causes Gynecomastia.
In Newborns: It is reported that more than 50% of babies have enlarged breasts when they are born because of the presence of the hormone, estrogen, from the mother. But this swelling goes away completely in just two to three weeks after birth and is nothing to be alarmed about.
In Puberty: Hormone changes occur when a child becomes a teenager. At such times, there is enlargement of breasts in boys. But this again is no cause for worry, since it subsides within six months or sometimes within two to three years.
In Men: In adult men, Gynecomastia frequently occurs between the ages of fifty and eighty. About a quarter of men are reported with this condition at this time. This is because of the decrease in testosterone levels compared to estrogens.
Medications: The Mayo Clinic staff has listed a few drugs that can cause Gynecomastia as a side effect. Some of these are
- Medication for heart conditions such as Lonoxin, Digoxin and other calcium based channel blockers
- Medication for AIDS and HAART (Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy) a treatment regimen for HIV positive men
- Some prostrate cancers and prostrate enlargements and related conditions are treated with anti-androgens such as Spironolactone (Aldactone), glutamide and finasteride (Proscar)
- Cancer treatments with chemotherapy
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Medicines like Diazepam (Valium) which are prescribed for anxiety disorders
- Anabolic steroids and androgens
- Medication to treat ulcers like Cimetidine
- Some antibiotics such as Ketoconazoleie. Nizoral, Extina, and Xolegel
- Hypertension treated with ACE inhibitors like Captopril (Capoten), Enalapril (Vasotec)
- Tea Tree oil and lavender oil in skin care products
Alcohols and Drug Abuse
Alcohol abuse and use of street drugs like marijuana can bring on Gynecomastia. Using heroin and amphetamine drugs and steroids are also attributed to cause this condition.
Conditions relating to Health
Many health conditions that inhibit the production of testosterone, leading to an imbalance of hormones, cause Gynecomastia. Some of them are:
- Starvation and Malnutrition: If the body does not get enough nutrition, the levels of testosterone drops though the levels of estrogens are unaffected. This hormonal imbalance can create Gynecomastia.
- Kidney Failure: About fifty per cent of patients, who are subjected to hemodialysis for kidney failure, experience hormonal changes which cause this condition.
- Tumors: Certain tumors in the testes or pituitary gland or adrenal glands, affect testosterone and estrogen balance causing Gynecomastia.
- Hypogonadism: Pituitary insufficiency, caused by Klinefeller syndrome, affects normal production of testosterone leading to this condition.
- Hyperthyroidism: Here the thyroid gland releases too much thyroxin, which is a hormone which upsets the hormone imbalance leading to Gynecomastia.
- Aging: Men, who are especially overweight, and undergo hormonal changes due to aging, are particularly prone to Gynecomastia.
It is important to be aware of how Gynecomastia is different from male cancer of the breast, which is quite rare. Cancer does not normally occur in both breasts and will be seen only in inflammation of one breast. Again, it is not swelling around the nipple. Caner feels firmer or harder and also causes the skin to become dimpled. Here the nipple retracts and there is discharge from the nipple. In breast cancer for men, the auxiliary lymph node in the underarms is enlarged. So breast cancer for men should not be confused with Gynecomastia.