Man Boobs Uncovered – The Truth About Gynaecomastia
‘Man boobs’ may be the butt of many jokes in the gym but excess male breast tissue can be a source of extreme embarrassment. Gynaecomastia, the medical term for man boobs, is thought to affect over 30% of men and as well as being embarrassing, can cause low self-esteem and even depression.
What causes gynaecomastia?
Gynaecomastia occurs when breast tissue and fatty tissue under the nipple enlarge to form a breast shape. Frustratingly, in most cases there’s no specific cause for gynaecomastia, which isn’t very helpful if you’re suffering from the condition. The condition is most common in teenagers where hormone imbalances can cause breast growth, but this usually corrects itself in adulthood. Men over 70 can also suffer from the condition as testosterone levels start to drop in older age.
Treatment for prostate cancer can also increase the chance of developing gynaecomastia, with 75% of men receiving medication for prostate cancer being affected by gynaecomastia. There are a number of other medications which can potentially cause gynaecomastia, including some steroids.
When is gynaecomastia not gynaecomastia?
Although it can look similar, chest fat (also known as pseudogynecomastia) can improve with exercise, which isn’t the case with gynaecomastia. Another way to differentiate the two is that gynaecomastia tends to occur behind the nipple, rather than across the whole of the chest and takes the form of a lump or it can make the nipples look ‘puffy’. If you’ve been focusing on your pecs during your workout then your suspected gynaecomastia could be pectoral hypertrophy or in other words, well developed pectoral muscles.
Treatments for gynaecomastia
In some cases gynaecomastia goes away on its own, particularly in younger men who grow out of the condition once their hormones settle. If you feel your medication could be causing your gynaecomastia, speak to your doctor about your concerns as simply changing medication might be enough to stop the problem. Surgical treatment is the desired option in most cases. There are two surgical options for gynaecomastia – when there is a small lump of breast tissue it is best removed via a small cut through the nipple. Alternatively, when the breast swelling is mostly fat then liposuction can be used. Some patients require the removal of a large area of breast tissue which is very similar to a mastectomy and is usually performed by making a cut around the nipple and removing any excess skin as well as breast tissue.
Scaring from gynaecomastia surgery is usually minimal and at around four months after surgery most patients will find their scars are practically invisible. As with all surgery, there are risks associated with this procedure. Gynaecomastia surgery is a routine operation and there are minimal complications, however, there may be remaining asymmetry or irregularity in the breasts which may require further surgery in extreme cases. Although very uncommon, nipple loss can occur when the blood supply to the nipple is stopped and if this happens, the nipple will be replaced by a scar. As with most procedures, risks are increased if the person smokes or is overweight, so it’s best to be in top physical condition before undergoing surgery.
Suffering from gynaecomastia can cause problems in every aspect of your life, even if, on the surface, everything seems fine as Jack* (a patient of Stephen McCulley’s) discovered. Jack, a confident and successful individual, suffered from gynaecomastia which affected almost every context which involved interaction with other people. Jack was so conscious of his condition that he tried to disguise it by wearing tight athletic tops but this did little to boost his confidence as he still felt very self-conscious in everyday situations such as swimming and beach holidays, going out in an evening and getting dressed.
Jack had tried to solve the problem with exercise but found this didn’t work as more weight actually masked the problem. With his resources exhausted, Jack resigned himself to putting up with the problem. However, Jack’s brother also suffered from the condition and decided to have surgery to rectify it. After seeing the positive impact the operation had on his brother, Jack decided to do some research and undergo the procedure too.
Since having the surgery, Jack is carrying on with his life free from the constant worry caused by his condition, when asked about comparing life before surgery to after he said it was “like something just switched in my head”, almost as if he’d forgotten what life was like before.
*name changed to protect identity
To find out more about treatments for gynaecomastic, visit our male breast reduction page or call us on 0115 962 4535.