Gynecomastia: Normal vs. Abnormal Tissue

July 23, 2014


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shutterstock_136980137Gynecomastia is the abnormal enlargement of male breast tissue. The condition can vary dramatically in terms of degree, with some men noticing a small enlargement and others suffering from extensive enlargement that may even resemble women’s breasts. In addition to the embarrassment of gynecomastia, there can be uncomfortable physical symptoms associated with the condition as well. Treatment of gynecomastia begins with a full evaluation of the condition to determine potential causes, severity and possible complications.

Gynecomastia Symptoms
While the most obvious symptom of gynecomastia is enlarged breasts, other symptoms might appear with the condition as well:

  • Rubbery mass in the breast
  • Swollen tissue
  • Tenderness of the breast

Gynecomastia usually appears in both breasts, but the breasts might enlarge at different rates. Some patients may also experience the condition in a single breast, although this is rarer with benign gynecomastia.

Gynecomastia Causes
There are many reasons why gynecomastia might develop:

  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • As a result of medication 
  • Alcohol and street drug use

Some medical conditions may also lead to gynecomastia. In these cases, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis from your physician, because treating the underlying condition will likely address the breast enlargement as well. Some of these conditions include:

  • Kidney or liver failure
  • Hypogonadism (testosterone deficiency)
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Certain Tumors

Gynecomastia Warning Signs
While it is not uncommon for men to worry when gynecomastia develops, enlarged breasts do not usually indicate cancer or another serious condition. Men should have their gynecomastia checked by a physician right away if any of the following symptoms develop:

  • Breast pain 
  • Additional swelling in the area
  • Nipple discharge
  • Lump in the breast that feels firm or hard
  • An open sore develops over the breast
  • Lump or swelling only appears in one breast

Gynecomastia Treatment
The good news is no matter what might lie behind your development of gynecomastia, treatment options are available. In some cases, a wait-and-see approach may be best, since gynecomastia often reverses on its own. For men that do not see improvement in their symptoms, a surgical procedure known as male breast reduction may be a good choice.

Male breast reduction is usually performed on an outpatient basis, using local anesthesia and sedation or general anesthesia. The procedure involves incisions in inconspicuous areas of the breast, where excess tissue and skin can be removed. Milder cases of gynecomastic may be treated with liposuction alone, which uses a narrow tube to gently suction excess tissue and fat out of the body.

Gynecomastia is rarely a serious medical condition, but it can have severe emotional and psychological consequences. If you are struggling with gynecomastia, contact Dr. Andrews at Physician’s Clinic of Iowa, Plastic Surgery at 319-382-8230 to learn more about your options in gynecomastia treatment.

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