Understanding Gynecomastia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

By: Dr. Lawrence Iteld


Many men experience a condition called gynecomastia, which refers to the enlargement of breast tissue in males. Often referred to as “man boobs,” this is more common than you might think, affecting up to 70% of adolescent boys and about 30% of adult males. 

Gynecomastia can cause physical discomfort and emotional distress; that’s why it’s important to know that there are treatment options available. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of gynecomastia, talk with us for proper diagnosis and guidance on the most appropriate course of action.

Time to understand its causes, symptoms, and treatment options. 

What is gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia refers to the abnormal growth of breast tissue in males. It can affect one or both breasts, resulting in swelling and sometimes tenderness. While it is commonly associated with hormonal changes during puberty, gynecomastia can occur at any age.

What are its causes? 

There are various conditions that cause gynecomastia: 

  • Hormonal Imbalance: Fluctuations in hormones, particularly an increase in estrogen relative to testosterone, can lead to gynecomastia. This imbalance often occurs during puberty, but it’s also a cause in older men.
  • Medications: The side effect of some medications, such as certain antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and medications used to treat prostate conditions or heartburn, can contribute to gynecomastia.
  • Health Conditions: Certain health conditions, including liver disease, kidney failure, thyroid disorders, and tumors of the adrenal glands or testes, can disrupt hormone levels.
  • Substance Use: The use of substances like anabolic steroids, marijuana, and alcohol can disrupt hormone levels and increase the risk of developing gynecomastia.
  • Hereditary Factors: In some cases, gynecomastia may have a genetic component, with a family history of the condition increasing the likelihood of its occurrence.

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms include swollen or enlarged breast tissue, tenderness, sensitivity, pain in the affected area or, in some cases, individuals may also experience discharge from the nipples. Having multiple symptoms is common, and many men complain about skin irritation.

What are the treatment options?

The treatment for gynecomastia depends on its severity and underlying cause. In some cases, gynecomastia may resolve on its own without any intervention. However, if the condition persists or causes significant discomfort, there are treatment options available. 

  • Lifestyle Changes: In cases where gynecomastia is mild and attributed to factors such as obesity or substance use, lifestyle modifications such as weight loss and abstaining from certain substances may help reduce breast size.
  • Medications: Rebalancing hormone levels with medications, such as selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) or aromatase inhibitors, may help reduce breast tissue.
  • Surgery: For severe or persistent cases of gynecomastia, surgical intervention is often a great solution. This surgery reduces breast size by eliminating fatty tissue; it flattens and enhances the chest contours; and allows for sculpting the patient’s upper body, which creates a more defined male physique and a better-shaped chest.

We’re here to help

If you are concerned about gynecomastia or experiencing symptoms, it’s a good time to reach out to us for a comprehensive evaluation so we can guide you through the appropriate treatment options. Please call our experienced patient coordinators at 312.757.4505  or use our contact form  to schedule your confidential consultation.

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* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.