What is Gynecomastia?
The word Gynecomastia comes from two Greek words, Gyne meaning Woman and Mastos which means breast. A loose translation would be “woman like breasts”. They are also know as steroid breasts or bitch tits as some people unkindly call them.
Gynecomastia actually describes a condition whereby breast tissue builds up in a males chest creating what appear to be female breasts. These breasts can be quite tender and sensitive.
The condition Gynecomastia is very common in adolescent boys, however, in about 90% of these cases, the condition disappears naturally as their adolescence follows it’s course.
For the remaining 10% though, it remains and can be quite a social handicap causing significant psychological damage to the patient. The feelings that this condition can generate can be shame, embarrassment and humiliation commonly. A lot of this can be brought about from teasing and jokes made about their breasts by their peers.
Other than the tenderness in the chest which is associated with Gynecomastia, there are no other medical problems with this condition other than the psychological problems that it causes.
For some men and boys who appear to have Gynecomastia, may actually have a condition called pseudogynecomastia. This describes the fatty build up on their chests. This is not the same thing as Gynecomastia.
Interestingly, it is possible that this condition may affect only one breast or both.
What causes Gynecomastia?
For most cases of Gynecomastia, there are no identifiable causes for this problem. However, this list contains a lot of what is commonly accepted to cause Gynecomastia.
- steroid abuse
- genetic disorders
- chronic liver disease
- side effects of medication
- Klinefelter Syndrome
- Gilberts Syndrome
Gynecomastia can also be caused by changes in the balance of the hormones estrogen and testosterone. This commonly occurs during puberty although can probably happen during other stages of a mans life.
From that list, it is believed that the main causes are obesity, steroid abuse and an imbalance in hormones.
How is Gynecomastia Diagnosed?
The doctor will probably make a physical examination of the breasts and then ask a number of questions regarding your breasts in order to ascertain how long you’ve had them and also what degree of tenderness do you experience.
In order to work out what is causing your Gynecomastia, the doctor will enquire about your medical history as well as any medication that you are taking.
The examination itself should be relatively minor with just a bit of prodding and poking.
It should be noted as well that while male breast cancer is more common than a lot of people think, these lumps in a mans breast are not cancerous, however, as usual, if in doubt, contact your doctor as soon as possible in order to eliminate the possibility.
How is Gynecomastia Treated?
In many cases Gynecomastia requires no treatment whatsoever and will disappear quietly on it’s own.
In other cases, the treatment may depend upon the cause. For example, if the cause is the medicine that you’re taking, then hopefully there is a suitable alternative which will be just as effective but without the side of effect of Gynecomastia. As Gynecomastia is usually less of a problem than the condition that the medicine is treating, this other condition will take priority in your care.
In a lot of cases, the reason for Gynecomastia is obesity. In this case, if the patient loses a degree of their weight through diet and exercise, then this will usually cure the Gynecomastia without the need for any kind of surgery.
In a small number of cases, surgery is deemed to be the best option. Usually in these cases, the Gynecomastia is causing the patient a significant degree of psychological problems.
This surgery removes the glandular tissue and/or fat behind the breast in order to create a more masculine looking chest.
The surgery for Gynecomastia can often be conducted under a local anesthetic with some sedation and the patient be treated as an out-patient. However, as with all surgery, whether it is low risk like this or high risk, there is always an element of risk of excessive bleeding, fluid loss and problems associated with the anesthesia. As such, the patient should be healthy and emotionally stable otherwise the risk of surgery is increased. There can also be a degree of scarring with the surgery which should be known before the operation takes place.
As this surgery is usually considered cosmetic, it is often quite difficult to get financing or for the public health bodies to accept you as a patient. However, patients do sometimes get the funding required often after proving the psychological problems that this condition causes.
Gynecomastia affects many people in varying degrees. The main problem from it, is the psychological problems associated with the humiliation of having woman like breasts. For most, the solution is to lose weight or to wait for the body to develop further, however for some, the only way to cure this problem is by having breast reduction surgery.
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