Gynecomastia: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment | PreferredMD
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Gynecomastia: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Condition • By Biraj Patel

Gynecomastia is a medical condition characterized by the enlargement of breast tissue in men, leading to the appearance of breasts. It can be a source of emotional distress and discomfort for those affected. Read further to learn the gynecomastia symptoms, risk factors, secondary prevention, and various gynecomastia treatments.

What is gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia is a condition that results from an imbalance of hormones in men, specifically an increase in estrogen levels relative to testosterone. This hormonal imbalance causes the development of glandular breast tissue, leading to the enlargement of the breasts. Gynecomastia can occur in one or both breasts and may affect men of all ages.

Gynecomastia symptoms 

The most evident symptom of gynecomastia is the enlargement of breast tissue. Other signs may include swollen or tender breasts, uneven breast growth, impacting one breast more than the other, and nipple discharge (although rarely occurs).

Gynecomastia causes

Gynecomastia is caused by an imbalance between the hormones estrogen and testosterone in the male body. Estrogen is a female hormone, and testosterone is a male hormone. Both genders have both hormones, but in different proportions. When the balance between these hormones is disrupted, it can lead to the development of gynecomastia.

There are several factors and conditions that can contribute to hormonal imbalances and thus trigger gynecomastia.

Hormonal changes during puberty

During puberty, hormonal fluctuations are common as the body undergoes significant changes. In some cases, there can be a temporary increase in estrogen relative to testosterone, leading to the development of breast tissue.


As men age, testosterone levels may naturally decline while estrogen levels remain relatively stable. This shift in hormone levels can result in an estrogen-to-testosterone imbalance, contributing to gynecomastia.


Certain medications can interfere with hormone levels and lead to gynecomastia as a side effect. These include some types of antidepressants, antianxiety medications, medications for prostate issues, and anabolic steroids.

Underlying health conditions

Conditions that affect hormone production or metabolism, such as liver or kidney disease, thyroid disorders, and tumors (such as testicular or adrenal tumors), can contribute to gynecomastia.

Minimizing risk of developing gynecomastia

While gynecomastia is often caused by hormonal imbalances that may be difficult to entirely prevent, there are steps individuals can take to reduce their risk or manage the condition if it occurs. 

  • Medication management: If you are taking medications known to increase the risk of gynecomastia (such as certain antidepressants or antianxiety drugs), discuss alternatives with your healthcare provider. They may be able to adjust your medication regimen or switch you to medications with fewer potential side effects.
  • Lifestyle modifications: Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help manage factors that contribute to gynecomastia. This includes maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise, and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption and illicit drug use.
  • Weight management: Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of gynecomastia, especially in cases of pseudogynecomastia where excess fat contributes to the condition. Focus on reducing overall body fat through a combination of diet and exercise.
  • Regular health checkups: Underlying health conditions such as liver disease, kidney disease, and thyroid disorders can contribute to gynecomastia. Regular health checkups can help identify and address these conditions early, reducing the risk of gynecomastia development.
  • Hormone therapy: In some cases, hormone therapy may be considered to manage gynecomastia risk. For instance, individuals with hormone imbalances due to medical conditions may benefit from hormone replacement therapy or other hormonal interventions under the guidance of a healthcare provider.
  • Avoiding anabolic steroids: If you are involved in bodybuilding or athletic endeavors, avoiding the use of anabolic steroids can significantly reduce the risk of hormonal imbalances and subsequent gynecomastia.

Gynecomastia stages and types 

Types of gynecomastia

True gynecomastia 

Characterized by the growth of glandular breast tissue, true gynecomastia is the most common type of the condition.


This type results from the accumulation of fat deposits around the breast area without significant glandular tissue growth. It is often associated with obesity.

Gynecomastia stages

Gynecomastia can be categorized into four stages based on breast tissue development and severity:

  • Stage 1: Minor breast enlargement without excess skin.
  • Stage 2: Moderate enlargement with minimal skin redundancy.
  • Stage 3: Moderate enlargement with moderate skin redundancy and a more feminine breast contour.
  • Stage 4: Marked enlargement with excess skin, giving the appearance of female-like breasts.

Complications of gynecomastia

While gynecomastia itself is not typically harmful, it may cause emotional distress, body image issues, and a decline in self-esteem. In severe cases, the enlarged breast tissue can be painful or tender.

Gynecomastia treatment

Gynecomastia treatment depends on the underlying cause, the severity of the condition, and the individual's preferences. Here are some common approaches to treating gynecomastia.

Observation and monitoring

In cases of mild gynecomastia, especially during puberty, the condition may resolve on its own as hormone levels stabilize. Healthcare providers might recommend regular monitoring to track changes in breast tissue and overall health.

Lifestyle changes

For cases of pseudogynecomastia, where excess fat contributes to the appearance of enlarged breasts, adopting a healthier lifestyle can be beneficial. Engaging in regular exercise and maintaining a balanced diet can help reduce overall body fat and improve the appearance of the chest.


In some cases, medications may be prescribed to address hormonal imbalances and reduce the size of breast tissue. Two common medications used are:

  • Tamoxifen: This medication is an anti-estrogen drug that can help reduce breast tissue growth in some cases of gynecomastia.
  • Aromatase inhibitors: These drugs block the conversion of testosterone into estrogen and are used to treat gynecomastia associated with excess estrogen production.

Gynecomastia supportive therapy

This approach involves addressing the emotional and psychological aspects of gynecomastia. Support groups, counseling, and education about the condition can help individuals cope with the distress that may arise from the physical changes.

Gynecomastia surgery

Surgical intervention is considered when gynecomastia persists, causes significant discomfort, or affects self-esteem. There are two main surgical options:

  • Liposuction: Liposuction is used to remove excess fat from the breast area. It is particularly effective in cases of pseudogynecomastia where fat accumulation is the primary issue.
  • Glandular tissue excision: In cases where glandular breast tissue has developed, surgical excision may be necessary. This procedure involves removing the excess glandular tissue through an incision.

Depending on the individual's needs, a combination of liposuction and glandular tissue excision might be performed for optimal results.

Gynecomastia surgery cost

The gynecomastia surgery cost varies depending on factors such as the surgeon's expertise, geographical location, facility fees, and the extent of the procedure. On average, gynecomastia surgery costs can range from $3,000 to $8,000.

Discuss gynecomastia with a doctor in PreferredMD network. Peer- and patient-approved.

Gynecomastia is a common condition that can affect men of all ages. Understanding its symptoms, causes, and available treatment options is crucial for those dealing with this condition. Supportive therapy, lifestyle changes, and surgery are effective approaches in managing gynecomastia and restoring self-confidence and well-being in affected individuals. 

If you suspect you have gynecomastia or experience any concerning symptoms, consult a qualified healthcare professional for a comprehensive evaluation and personalized treatment plan.

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