What Causes Gynecomastia? Understanding Male Breast Growth


Ever pondered why some men develop enlarged breasts? Gynecomastia, a benign condition, results in the growth of breast tissue in males. It affects a considerable number of individuals across various life stages, from newborns to seniors. The causes span from natural hormonal fluctuations to specific health issues and medication side effects. Grasping the underlying causes is crucial for effective management and treatment.

Key Takeaways

  • Gynecomastia affects approximately half of newborn boys, with most cases resolving within 2 to 6 months.
  • More than half of boys experience some breast enlargement during puberty, usually resolving within 6 months to 2 years.
  • Hormonal changes due to aging, particularly in men over 50, can lead to male breast enlargement.
  • Health conditions such as chronic liver disease, kidney failure, and low testosterone levels can cause gynecomastia in adult men.
  • Substances like alcohol, marijuana, and certain medications can also lead to male breast growth.
  • Although rare, gynecomastia in men can increase the risk of breast cancer.

To seek professional advice regarding gynecomastia, contact Dr Craig Shaw at Chimera Clinic on 011 907 6621 or email admin@drshaw.co.za for more information and treatment options.

What Causes Gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia, the enlargement of breast tissue in males, results from an estrogen testosterone imbalance. This imbalance can be triggered by physiological and external factors. Understanding these hormonal causes of gynecomastia is crucial for effective diagnosis and treatment.

Natural hormone changes are a key factor. In puberty, around 70% of boys experience gynecomastia, which usually resolves within two years as hormone levels stabilise. Infants may also show transient gynecomastia due to the high estrogen levels during pregnancy. In older men, a decline in testosterone levels relative to estrogen can lead to this condition.

Male breast tissue growth can also stem from health conditions and medications. For example, chronic liver disease and kidney failure can disrupt hormone levels, causing gynecomastia. Hormone therapy for prostate cancer is another documented cause, requiring alternative management strategies.

Medications for various ailments can also contribute to gynecomastia. For instance, drugs treating heart conditions, such as Calcium Channel Blockers and Digoxin, are known culprits. Similarly, anti-ulcer medications like cimetidine have been linked to the development of gynecomastia.

Lifestyle choices significantly impact the likelihood of developing gynecomastia. The use of anabolic steroids by bodybuilders is a notable example, as these substances can sharply alter hormone balances. Excessive alcohol consumption also affects liver function and hormone regulation, leading to potential breast tissue growth.

Distinguished from true gynecomastia is pseudogynecomastia, characterised by fat accumulation rather than glandular proliferation. This is often observed in obese males and can create similar aesthetic concerns but requires different treatment approaches.

It's essential to differentiate gynecomastia from other conditions like breast carcinoma, which is less prevalent and generally unilateral. Clinical features such as skin dimpling, nipple retraction, and axillary lymphadenopathy indicate carcinoma rather than gynecomastia.

For anyone grappling with gynecomastia, consulting an expert like Dr Craig Shaw at Chimera Clinic can provide valuable insights and tailored treatment options. Call us on 011 907 6621 or email us at admin@drshaw.co.za for expert advice and compassionate care.

Understanding Gynecomastia: An Overview

Gynecomastia is a condition where males develop breast gland tissue. It can happen at different life stages due to hormonal shifts, medications, or health issues. It might appear at birth, during puberty, or in older age due to hormonal changes.

What is Gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia is characterised by the growth of breast gland tissue. This condition is usually harmless and stems from an imbalance in estrogen and androgen levels. It can significantly affect mental health, leading to depression and low self-esteem, especially in young men and adolescents.

Several factors can lead to gynecomastia at various life stages:

  • Birth: Elevated maternal estrogens affect newborn males.
  • Puberty: Hormonal changes during adolescence.
  • Aging: Decreased testosterone levels and a shift in testosterone-to-estrogen ratio.
  • Medications: Certain drugs like estrogens, theophylline, thiazides, and phenothiazines.

Managing gynecomastia often requires a team effort from pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and surgeons like Dr Craig Shaw at Chimera Clinic.

Gynecomastia vs Pseudogynecomastia

It's essential to distinguish gynecomastia from pseudo-gynecomastia for correct diagnosis and treatment. Gynecomastia enlarges breast gland tissue, whereas pseudo-gynecomastia involves fat accumulation around the chest without glandular growth.

CausesHormonal imbalances, medications, agingObesity, high body fat percentage
Tissue InvolvedBreast gland tissueFat accumulation
TreatmentHormone therapy, surgery if persistentWeight loss, lifestyle modifications
PrevalenceCommon in adolescents and older menCommon in overweight males

Understanding these differences is key to effective management. For gynecomastia consultation, contact Dr Craig Shaw at Chimera Clinic. Call us at 011 907 6621 or email admin@drshaw.co.za.

Symptoms of Gynecomastia

Identifying the symptoms of gynecomastia is crucial for early intervention and treatment. We will explore the physical signs, critical times for medical consultation, and the roles of natural hormone fluctuations, medications, health conditions, and substance use.

Physical Symptoms

The key physical signs of gynecomastia are enlarged breast tissue, breast pain and tenderness, and sensitive nipples. These symptoms can affect one or both breasts, sometimes unevenly. While it often clears up on its own during puberty, recognising these signs early aids in effective gynecomastia diagnosis and management.

When to Seek Medical Help

If you experience persistent or severe breast pain and tenderness, or notice any unusual breast tissue changes, seek medical advice. Early consultation can pinpoint underlying causes and ensure precise gynecomastia diagnosis. For expert evaluation, contact Dr Craig Shaw at Chimera Clinic. Call us at 011 907 6621 or email admin@drshaw.co.za.

Natural Hormone Changes

Natural hormone fluctuations, especially during puberty and aging, significantly influence gynecomastia development. Over half of male infants are born with enlarged breasts due to fetal estrogen exposure. This condition typically resolves within a few weeks. In puberty, the breast tissue usually diminishes in 6 months to 2 years, not requiring treatment.

Medicines and Treatments

Various medications can induce gynecomastia, including anti-androgens, anabolic steroids, antiretroviral treatments, ADHD drugs, tricyclic antidepressants, and opioids. Recognising these potential side effects is vital for prevention or management. If medication-induced gynecomastia symptoms arise, consult your healthcare provider immediately.

Health Conditions

Several health conditions are linked to gynecomastia. These include hypogonadism, aging, tumors, hyperthyroidism, kidney and liver failure, malnutrition, and starvation. These conditions disrupt the balance of estrogen and testosterone, leading to breast tissue overdevelopment. Accurate gynecomastia diagnosis often involves diagnosing these underlying health issues.

Drug and Alcohol Use

Substance abuse, including alcohol, anabolic steroids, amphetamines, marijuana, heroin, and methadone, significantly raises the risk of gynecomastia. These substances affect hormonal balance, contributing to breast tissue enlargement. Cutting down or stopping these substances is a proactive step towards preventing and managing gynecomastia.

FactorsInfluence on Gynecomastia
NewbornsSwollen tissue due to maternal estrogen (resolves within weeks)
PubertyHormonal changes; self-resolving in 6 months to 2 years
Older MenAbout 24% to 65% experience gynecomastia; may require medical intervention
MedicationsAnti-androgens, steroids, antiretrovirals, ADHD meds, etc.
Substance AbuseAlcohol, steroids, amphetamines, marijuana, heroin, methadone

Identifying Risk Factors for Gynecomastia

Understanding the risk factors for gynecomastia is crucial for prevention and effective treatment. These factors include natural life changes, medical conditions, and lifestyle choices.

Puberty and Aging

Hormonal imbalances during puberty and aging are significant contributors to gynecomastia. During puberty, changes in estradiol and testosterone levels can cause glandular breast tissue to develop. For men over 65, a decline in testosterone levels and hormonal shifts increases the risk. Gynecomastia affects newborns, adolescents around 13, and elderly men commonly.

Obesity and Lifestyle Choices

There is a well-documented link between obesity and gynecomastia. Excess weight leads to increased fat tissue, which can raise estrogen levels and cause hormonal imbalances. Lifestyle choices like excessive alcohol consumption and recreational drug use also increase the risk. A balanced diet and regular exercise can help reduce these risks.

Medical Conditions and Treatments

Several medical conditions are linked to gynecomastia, including breast cancer, liver and kidney diseases, hypogonadism, and thyroid disorders. These conditions can disrupt hormone levels, leading to breast tissue enlargement. Certain medications, such as digoxin, thiazides, and anabolic steroids, also contribute to gynecomastia.

Diagnosing and managing these conditions is crucial. Treatment options vary from lifestyle changes and medication to surgical interventions, depending on the severity and duration of gynecomastia. Consulting a specialist like Dr Craig Shaw at Chimera Clinic can provide tailored solutions. For further assistance, call us at 011 907 6621 or email admin@drshaw.co.za.

Life StageRisk FactorsCommon Age Group
NewbornTemporary hormonal imbalances0-1 years
AdolescentFluctuations in estradiol/testosterone levelsAround 13 years
Older MenDeclining testosterone levels, medications65+ years

Psychological Effects of Gynecomastia

Gynecomastia, a condition where males experience breast tissue enlargement, affects nearly two-thirds of men worldwide. This condition significantly impacts mental health, causing emotional distress and body image issues.

Li et al.'s research showed that 94.8% of patients felt psychological stress due to gynecomastia. Such distress can severely affect life quality, causing social embarrassment and a reluctance to participate in activities that reveal the chest. Younger individuals, particularly adolescents and young adults, often face heightened social isolation due to this condition.

Studies reveal that gynecomastia patients generally report lower health scores in various areas, including social and mental health. Boys with gynecomastia tend to have lower self-esteem and emotional well-being. These concerns can lead to mental health problems, such as social phobia and decreased self-esteem, as noted in the Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Statistical Overview:

Gynecomastia affects up to65% of the male population
Patients reporting psychological stress94.8%
Boys with gynecomastia who are overweight or obese64%
Adults and adolescents with negative psychosocial impactsHigh incidence
Young adults experiencing social isolationIncreased likelihood
Patients with lower general health, social functioning, and mental health scoresSignificant proportion

For those dealing with gynecomastia, addressing the issue can bring significant psychological relief. A 2015 review by Fagerlund et al. highlighted high satisfaction rates among patients who underwent surgery for gynecomastia. If you're struggling with emotional distress or body image issues due to gynecomastia, consulting healthcare professionals might be beneficial. Dr Craig Shaw at Chimera Clinic offers expert advice and support. Contact us at 011 907 6621 or admin@drshaw.co.za to arrange a consultation.

Coping with Gynecomastia

Coping with gynecomastia can be tough, but there are effective strategies to help. It's important to talk openly with healthcare professionals, join support groups, and use community resources. These steps are crucial for managing the condition.

Communicating with Healthcare Professionals

If you're experiencing symptoms, it's key to seek professional medical advice. Talking clearly with healthcare providers can uncover the root causes, such as hormone imbalances or health issues like Klinefelter syndrome, liver disease, or kidney failure. Over 300 medications can cause breast tissue growth, so it's vital to discuss all drugs with your doctor. Gynecomastia is not breast cancer but can raise the risk of it. Consulting with experts like Dr Craig Shaw at Chimera Clinic can lead to tailored care plans.

Support Groups and Community Resources

Connecting with the gynecomastia community can offer emotional support and practical advice. Groups and organisations focused on coping with gynecomastia are incredibly helpful. Sharing stories with others who get what you're going through can ease the emotional load. Joining a local group or an online forum can create a sense of belonging and understanding.

Managing gynecomastia means getting the right support and resources. Whether it's through professional advice, community support, or coping strategies, building a strong support network is key. This approach helps everyone feel more confident and clear about their path.

For more help, or to talk to Dr Craig Shaw at Chimera Clinic, call us at: 011 907 6621 or email us at: admin@drshaw.co.za.

Managing Gynecomastia and Quality of Life

Managing gynecomastia effectively is crucial for enhancing life quality for those affected. It affects individuals across all ages, with a significant prevalence. Neonates, adolescents, and men aged 50 to 69 years are particularly affected, with rates ranging from 60% to 90%, 50% to 60%, and up to 70%, respectively. While most cases are asymptomatic, it's essential to address them through appropriate interventions.

A holistic approach is necessary, combining medical treatments, lifestyle adjustments, and psychological support. In 83% of cases, a thorough medical history and physical examination can uncover underlying conditions or medications causing gynecomastia.

The following table provides insights into the prevalence and diagnosis of gynecomastia:

Age GroupPrevalenceCommon Causes
Neonates60% - 90%Maternal oestrogens
Adolescents50% - 60%Idiopathic, hormonal changes
Adults (27 - 92 years)65% (hospitalized men)Medications, medical conditions
Men (50 - 69 years)Up to 70%Decreased testosterone, medications

Effective strategies for managing symptoms and enhancing life quality include medical interventions and lifestyle adjustments. Medications like tamoxifen or raloxifene have shown positive effects. Surgical options, such as those evaluated by Prado AC et al. and Handschin AE et al., provide relief for persistent cases. These procedures have proven effective and satisfied patients.

Lifestyle changes are vital in managing gynecomastia. Engaging in regular exercise, maintaining a balanced diet, and avoiding substances that exacerbate the condition are crucial steps. Psychological support through counselling or support groups can also significantly improve emotional well-being.

For professional advice and treatment, consulting with an experienced surgeon is paramount. Reach out to Dr Craig Shaw at Chimera Clinic for a personalised consultation. Call us on 011 907 6621 or email us at admin@drshaw.co.za to schedule an appointment.

Treatment Options for Gynecomastia

Gynecomastia, characterised by the enlargement of one or both breasts in males, often resolves without intervention. However, for those requiring more direct gynecomastia treatment, options range from non-invasive methods to surgical procedures and hormone therapy.

Non-Invasive Treatments

Non-invasive treatments are typically considered first, especially for individuals seeking minimal disruption to their daily lives. Physicians may suggest medications such as Tamoxifen, Raloxifene, and aromatase inhibitors, though none are specifically approved by the FDA for this condition. Despite this, these medications have been found to reduce breast tissue and alleviate symptoms in many cases. Teenagers experiencing gynecomastia due to hormonal changes during puberty generally see the condition resolve without any treatment within two years.

Surgical Procedures

In more persistent or severe cases, surgical options like breast reduction surgery might be necessary. This can involve liposuction to remove excess breast fat or a mastectomy to remove glandular tissue. These procedures are generally safe, with complications being rare. Post-operative issues may include insufficient breast tissue removal, uneven chest contour, or reduced sensation in the nipples. These treatments effectively address the physical symptoms and help improve emotional well-being by restoring a more typical male chest contour.

Hormone Therapy

Hormone treatment for gynecomastia is another viable option, particularly when the condition is caused by imbalances between testosterone and oestrogen levels. Hormone therapy can help rebalance these levels, alleviating symptoms and preventing future occurrences. Before starting any hormone treatment, a thorough evaluation, including diagnostic tests such as blood work, mammograms, and MRIs, is critical to determine the best course of action.

At Chimera Clinic, Dr Craig Shaw and his skilled team provide comprehensive care for patients dealing with gynecomastia. Whether through non-invasive treatments, surgical procedures, or hormone therapy, each patient's treatment plan is personalised for optimal outcomes. Call us on 011 907 6621 or email us at admin@drshaw.co.za to schedule a consultation and explore the most suitable gynecomastia treatment options.

Treatment OptionDescriptionProsCons
Non-Invasive TreatmentsMedications like Tamoxifen, Raloxifene, and aromatase inhibitors.No surgery neededMinimal recovery timeNot FDA-approved for gynecomastiaVaried effectiveness
Surgical ProceduresLiposuction or mastectomy to remove excess breast tissue.Effective for severe casesPermanent resultsPotential complicationsLonger recovery time
Hormone TherapyRebalancing testosterone and oestrogen levels to alleviate symptoms.Treats root causeNon-surgicalRequires detailed assessmentVaried side effects

Living with Gynecomastia: Personal Stories

Gynecomastia affects many men, significantly impacting their daily lives. Daniel's story sheds light on the challenges and solutions for those living with this condition.

Experiences of South African Men

Daniel first noticed his gynecomastia in 2012, during a rugby match. As a physique athlete, he maintained a strict diet and trained intensively. Yet, his gynecomastia hindered his competition results, despite his hard work.

This condition deeply affected Daniel's mental health, leading him to stop training and adopt unhealthy eating habits. His self-esteem suffered. After years, he decided to have surgery. The surgery was pain-free, prompting him to wonder why he had waited so long. Six weeks post-surgery, Daniel was recovering well, looking forward to his future.

He also underwent miraDry treatment for excessive sweating, which improved his life significantly.

Dr Craig Shaw's Perspectives

Dr Craig Shaw, an expert at Chimera Clinic, provides valuable insights on gynecomastia. He notes that gynecomastia prevalence in boys ranges from 4% to 69%. This highlights the wide variation in societal and medical norms.

"Millions of men and boys worldwide, including in South Africa, face gynecomastia, a condition that is medically benign but socially challenging," Dr Shaw explains. "Transgender individuals, like those with gynecomastia, face discrimination and societal pressures. Our role is to offer comprehensive care and support in their journey to self-acceptance and body confidence."

Daniel's decision to seek surgery at a young age shows his commitment to improving his life. His story highlights the resilience of men facing gynecomastia.

Gynecomastia often stems from hormonal imbalances during adolescence, caused by increased testosterone leading to estrogen conversion. Certain drugs, including marijuana, steroids, and medications like Propecia, can also contribute to it.

Surgery is a viable option for removing excess breast tissue. Less invasive methods, such as liposuction followed by laser treatments, are also available. Dr Shaw advises that while mammograms may be recommended before surgery, there is no link between gynecomastia and breast cancer.

  1. Call us on: 011 907 6621
  2. Email us: admin@drshaw.co.za
SurgeryRemoves excess tissueRequires recovery time
Liposuction & Laser TreatmentLess invasiveMay need multiple treatments
miraDry TreatmentReduces sweatingAdditional to main surgery

Living with gynaecomastia is challenging, but with support and expert advice, individuals can manage and overcome their challenges effectively.

Preventing Gynecomastia

Preventing gynecomastia requires a healthy lifestyle and informed choices. By focusing on habits that support overall wellness, individuals can significantly reduce the risk of hormone imbalances that may lead to gynecomastia. Understanding how lifestyle affects gynecomastia can also help in minimising its occurrence.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

One key strategy for preventing gynecomastia is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This encompasses a balanced diet, regular exercise, and managing body weight. Obesity is closely linked to both pseudogynecomastia and true gynecomastia due to the proliferation of adipose tissue and hormonal shifts. Therefore, keeping a healthy weight is crucial. Moreover, good nutrition and avoiding malnutrition are essential, as malnutrition can lead to gynecomastia in up to 40% of patients with chronic renal failure.

"An estimated 65% of men aged 50 to 80 experience some degree of gynecomastia."

Regular exercise is crucial not just for weight management but also for maintaining hormonal balance. Activities like weight training can help boost testosterone levels, thereby reducing the risk of hormone imbalances. For bodybuilders, it is crucial to be cautious about substance use. The misuse of steroids has been linked to gynecomastia, with over 1,500 cases requiring surgical treatment in the United States between 1980 and 2013.

Avoiding Risk Factors

Avoiding known risk factors is vital in preventing gynecomastia. Certain medications, such as those used to treat prostate cancer, can increase the risk. It is essential to discuss potential side effects with healthcare providers. Substance abuse should also be avoided, as it can lead to gynecomastia, and stopping it may prevent the condition.

Risk FactorContribution
Medication/Substance Use25%
Physiological Hormonal Changes25%
Primary Hypogonadism8%

Being aware of underlying medical conditions is crucial. Conditions like hypogonadism, adrenal disease, thyroid disease, cirrhosis, kidney failure, and glandular tumours can contribute to gynecomastia. Regular medical check-ups and proactive treatment of these conditions can help reduce the risk of hormone imbalances.

Living with gynecomastia can affect self-esteem and cause stress. Seeking support from healthcare providers or mental health professionals can be beneficial.

For more personalised guidance on preventing gynecomastia, please consult Dr Craig Shaw at Chimera Clinic. Call us on 011 907 6621 or email us on admin@drshaw.co.za.

Consulting Dr Craig Shaw at Chimera Clinic

If you're facing gynecomastia, securing the right treatment and expert advice is crucial. Consulting Dr Craig Shaw at Chimera Clinic offers specialist care and support tailored to your needs. Dr Shaw brings extensive experience in gynecomastia treatment, providing hormone therapy and surgical solutions suited to each patient. His detailed, personalised consultations ensure you receive the most effective advice and treatment plan.

At Chimera Clinic, expert gynecomastia assistance is readily available, just a call or email away. Dr Craig Shaw's comprehensive consultation process involves a thorough assessment of your condition and a discussion on the most effective treatment options. His deep understanding and expertise in managing gynecomastia aim to improve patient outcomes and enhance quality of life.

To schedule your consultation with Dr Craig Shaw at Chimera Clinic, contact us at 011 907 6621 or send an email to admin@drshaw.co.za. Don't delay in seeking expert gynecomastia assistance and begin your journey towards effective management and recovery. With Dr Craig Shaw's gynecomastia treatment, you're in the hands of a knowledgeable and caring professional.


What causes gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia stems from an imbalance between estrogen and testosterone in males. This imbalance can stem from natural bodily changes, certain medications, medical conditions, or substance use.

What is the difference between gynecomastia and pseudogynecomastia?

Gynecomastia involves the enlargement of breast gland tissue in males. In contrast, pseudogynecomastia results in an increase in chest fat without glandular growth. Accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment.

What are the symptoms of gynecomastia?

Symptoms include breast pain and tenderness, swelling, and sensitive nipples. If these symptoms persist, it's vital to consult a doctor, as they could signal other health issues.

When should I seek medical help for gynecomastia?

Seek medical advice for persistent breast pain, tenderness, significant swelling, or any changes in breast tissue. Early intervention aids in correct diagnosis and treatment options.

What are the psychological effects of gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia can lead to emotional distress, body image concerns, and a reduced quality of life. It may cause men and adolescents to feel socially embarrassed, affecting their wellbeing.

How can one cope with gynecomastia?

Coping involves talking openly with healthcare professionals, joining support groups, and using community resources. These steps offer emotional support and practical advice on managing symptoms.

What are the treatment options for gynecomastia?

Treatment ranges from non-invasive methods like medication and hormone therapy to surgical procedures such as breast reduction surgery. The choice depends on the severity and underlying causes of symptoms.

Can a man live with gynecomastia without treatment?

Yes, many men manage gynecomastia without treatment, especially if it's mild and doesn't cause discomfort. Yet, consulting a doctor can help manage symptoms if needed.

How can gynecomastia be prevented?

Prevention involves a healthy lifestyle, managing weight, and avoiding risk factors like certain medications and substance use. Being proactive and informed can lower the risk of developing gynecomastia.

What is Dr Craig Shaw's approach to treating gynecomastia?

Dr Craig Shaw at Chimera Clinic provides specialised care for gynecomastia, including hormone therapy and surgery. His approach is tailored to individual needs and conditions.

Are there support groups for men with gynecomastia?

Yes, there are support groups and online communities for men with gynecomastia. These platforms allow sharing experiences, seeking advice, and finding emotional support, which can be invaluable in coping with the condition.


Tel : 011 907 6621
Email: admin@drshaw.co.za

30 Camelford Rd
New Redruth
Alberton, 1449


  • Results are not guaranteed
  • Results may vary from patient to patient
Copyright © 2024 All Rights Reserved Dr Shaw