Enlargement of the male breast tissue, also known as gynecomastia, is a condition that is mostly a result of a hormone imbalance in a male’s body that results in an excessive production of the hormone estrogen, or the female hormone.
Although most commonly seen in puberty in developing young boys, when hormonal activity is significantly increased, it may also be seen during infancy when the infant breast-feeds and is ingesting high levels of the mother’s hormones through breastmilk.
Increasingly, gynecomastia is also being diagnosed in middle-aged to older men. In adult men, causes for this condition may be related to certain medications, such as some antibiotics, some hypertensive drugs, anti-ulcer drugs and anti-androgen drugs. Drug abuse of certain substances like heroin, marijuana, or alcohol may also result in gynecomastia, as well as certain conditions like liver cirrhosis, kidney failure, hyperthyroidism, malnutrition and testicular cancer.
Gynecomastia is often misconstrued in overweight men as fat deposits around the breast tissue. However, gynecomastia actually causes an enlargement of the glandular tissue that is generally centralized around the patient’s nipples.
Enlarged breast tissue in a male patient that is greater than a half a centimeter is usually a strong indication of gynecomastia, as men normally have so little of this tissue. In most cases, however, a thorough physical examination is needed to definitively diagnose the condition. This exam will include blood tests to assess thyroid, kidney and liver function in affected patients, as well as the patient’s hormone levels.
Treatment options available for this condition are:
Note that in most pediatric cases, gynecomastia disappears on its own, about six months or so after the male patient reaches puberty.
Surgical treatment of gynecomastia is typically an outpatient procedure. Patients are given general anesthesia for the surgery and are discharged to the comfort of their own home the same day.
After surgery, it is normal for the patient to experience soreness, swelling and bruising at the operation site. Drainage tubes will be used for a few days, and compression bandages are recommended to reduce the swelling and provide the patient with extra support during recovery. Physical activities must be limited to prevent complications , and any sign of infection must be reported to the physician immediately.
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