Written by Twin City Plastic Surgery
A condition that plagues many men yet goes almost undiscussed in the media is Gynecomastia, otherwise known as enlarged male breasts. Gynecomastia occurs in 40 to 60 percent of men, sometimes as an on-going condition or may develop due to other medical changes.
While a man’s chest typically has some shape, many men find their chest has excess fat or contouring similar to women’s breasts. Gynecomastia doesn’t have a negative impact on a man’s overall health, but can cause social awkwardness or body image issues. And since it receives little public discussion, men facing this condition frequently don’t feel comfortable talking with their doctor or looking for solutions.
The size and shape of male breasts can vary. It’s not uncommon for men with breasts to hide their body by wearing loose clothing or developing a hunched-over posture. Sometimes the condition is noticeable only when a man has his shirt off, such as at the beach or pool. But the condition may be more pronounced on other men, with their breasts showing through shirts and clothing adding to the awkwardness they feel on a daily basis.
No one knows for sure what causes male breasts, but most doctors agree it appears to result from a hormone imbalance. All men have both androgens (hormones that create male characteristics) and estrogens (hormones that create female characteristics) in their bodies. Changes in the levels or in how the body uses or responds to these hormones may cause enlarged breasts in men.
Some young men form male breasts during puberty, but their chest returns to a normal appearance as they grow and mature. Other men find their breasts continue after puberty through the rest of their lives. Being overweight causes the body to develop more fatty tissue and may also aggravate the condition. Using certain prescription medications, steroids, or “street drugs” may also cause male breasts to develop.
Unlike Gynecomastia which results in enlargement in both breasts, some men notice enlargement in only one breast or that the breast has a hard or firm feel. Men who notice these types of changes should visit their doctor immediately to rule out breast cancer.
Currently, the only known treatment for Gynecomastia is breast reduction surgery, and a board-certified plastic surgeon can help a man suffering from this condition explore his options. One of the most rewarding parts of working in plastic surgery is helping people manage the special needs of their bodies.
The physician will conduct a thorough medical evaluation to confirm that the patient is in good health, review the patient’s weight and medication or drug use history, and determine if there are any other medical conditions contributing to the breast formation.
If breast reduction surgery is the right solution, the plastic surgeon will help the patient understand the procedure, any steps needed for preparation, and the potential side effects or complications. Although different techniques are performed depending on the severity, in most cases the surgery will include glandular tissue being surgically removed with simultaneous liposuction to contour excess fat. Recovery time varies from person to person and depends upon the extent of the surgery. Patients often return home the same day, return to non-physically demanding work in less than a week, and resume normal activities including exercise in 4-6 weeks.
But, the most important change a patient will experience is the new-found confidence and comfort with their physical appearance. Gynecomastia may not be discussed much in the media, but the only discussion that matters is one a man has with his plastic surgeon.