The official medical name is gynecomastia but you might know it better as "man boobs," or perhaps, "bitch tits." Whatever you call it, having enlarged breasts as a guy is super embarrassing. While you're probably not super thrilled about having man boobs, the good news is that the condition doesn't have to be permanent.
Is it Gynecomastia? First, Understand the Symptoms
The most apparent sign of gynecomastia is enlarged breasts. WebMd describes the enlargement as being "firm [and] rubbery." That's because it's the actual breast gland itself that is enlarged, not the fatty tissue around the breast. The tissue might be relatively small (around 1.5 inches in diameter), but still visible.
Although many men experience enlarged breast tissues on both sides of the chest, some have visible swelling in just one breast. It's also possible to have an uneven enlargement or one man boob that looks bigger than the other.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons has four classifications for gynecomastia, based on the amount of enlargement. The four rankings range from mild to severe:
Along with visible symptoms, gynecomastia might cause a few physical symptoms. The breasts might feel tender or even somewhat painful. Some men also experience discharge from the nipples, but that is usually a sign of a more serious issue, such as breast cancer.
Gynecomastia vs. Pseudogynecomastia: What’s the Difference?
Gynecomastia is actual enlargement of the breast tissue in men, leading to the development of feminine breasts. Pseudogynecomastia is slightly different.
What is Pseudogynecomastia?
If you break it down, pseudogynecomastia means "fake gynecomastia." Other names for the condition are lipomastia or adiopomastia. Both "lipo" and "adipo" refer to fat while "mastia" means breasts. So, pseudogynecomastia is breast enlargement that happens because a guy's got too much fat.
Since about two-thirds of the US population is overweight or obese, you can pretty much count on a lot of guys with enlarged breasts having a pseudogynecomastia rather than true gynecomastia. While that might seem like a problem, it's good news, as treating fat man boobs can be a lot easier than addressing glandular man boobs.
Treating Pseudogynecomastia: Focus on Weight Loss
What's the best way to manage pseudogynecomastia? Here's a hint: it's not rocket science. You need to lose weight. According to one plastic surgeon, wearing a compression garment around the chest while on a weight loss plan will help conceal your man boobs and help the area return to its flat form more quickly.
Although weight loss will help get rid of man boobs created by fat, some guys have fat that's a bit more stubborn than others. If you've dropped a significant amount of weight and aren't classified as overweight anymore, but still have fat boobs, surgery to get rid of that unwanted fat, aka liposuction, might be your best bet.
Can Pseuodgynecomastia Turn Into Gynecomastia?
There's a lot of confusion when it comes to pseudogynecomastia. Some guys lose weight or have liposuction, only to have their enlarged breasts return. That's because it's possible for pseudogynecomastia to lead to the development of gynecomastia.
Here's why. The amount of fat you have in the body affects your hormone levels. Hormones are the chemical messengers in the body. They determine how you grow, how your metabolism functions, how you feel, and how well your reproductive system functions. If something goes wrong with your hormones, lots of things are going to get wacky with your body.
That's where things get tricky because a lot of seemingly innocuous factors -- such as having a bit of extra fat -- can negatively affect your hormone levels. Specifically, guys who are obese or significantly overweight are more likely to have lower testosterone and higher estrogen levels than men who are at a "healthy" weight.
So although pseudogynecomastia can genuinely begin as a problem of extra fatty tissues, the presence of higher levels of estrogen in the body can turn it into gynecomastia, if a guy doesn't lose weight.
Are Older Men More Susceptible to Gynecomastia?
Gynecomastia can affect pretty much any guy, at any age, but some age groups are more susceptible to it than others. Older men, usually over age 50, are among the age groups most likely to have to deal with man boobs. About one in four men over age 50 have gynecomastia, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Why Are Older Men More Likely to Have Man Boobs?
A few things happen as guys get older than increases their risk for developing gynecomastia. One is the fact that testosterone levels naturally decrease with age. That natural drop in testosterone that occurs with age can give estrogen (which guys have, just in smaller amounts than women) a chance to increase.
Lifestyle habits and medical conditions, plus their treatments, can also put older men at a higher risk of developing man boobs.
Infants Aren’t Exempt, But Not to Worry!
After men over the age of 50, newborn baby males are the next most likely group to experience gynecomastia. The good thing about having "man boobs" when you're just a baby is that you're usually too young to care.
The other good thing about baby man boobs is that the issue usually clears up pretty quickly. Often, the enlarged breast tissue in babies is because they have high levels of estrogen in their blood, from their mother. Once the estrogen levels return to normal, so does the size of their breasts.
Gynecomastia in Young Boys & Teens: Patience is a Virtue
Look, having man boobs when you're an older guy is embarrassing. But it's probably not nearly as bad as developing them when you're a pre-teen or teenager going through puberty.
If you think back to puberty, you might remember as a time when your hormones went wild, and you could barely tell up from down. For most guys, estrogen levels drop during puberty, and they start to develop "male" characteristics such as deeper voices and facial hair. But, occasionally, the level of estrogen in a guy's body is high enough during puberty that breast tissue develops. This happens to about half of all pubescent boys, according to KidsHealth.
The good news is that the breast tissue usually returns to normal quickly, within a few months in the best case or within in a few years in the less-than-ideal cases. The bad news, of course, is that this all happens during the time of life when kids are at their most vicious and cruel.
Be Aware of These Gynecomastia Causes and Risk Factors
A range of factors can contribute to or cause gynecomastia, mainly when it occurs in older guys. Usually, an imbalance of hormones is the primary cause, but specific lifestyle choices or habits, as well as some medical conditions, can also be to blame for enlarged male breast tissue.
Too Much Estrogen or Too Little Testosterone
Every guy has some estrogen in his system. In fact, estrogen plays a small but essential role in men's sexual health. But when levels of estrogen get too high, guys run into trouble, namely gynecomastia.
In some cases, it might be that a man's estrogen levels have remained constant while his levels of testosterone have dropped over time. That can make it seem as if a guy is making way more estrogen than needed, and can lead to enlargement of the breast tissue.
What Causes Hormone Imbalance? Is it Correctable?
Although changing hormone levels can be just a part of getting older, in some cases, the imbalance occurs because of an outside force or influence. The following might all contributing to rising estrogen levels and falling androgen levels.
9 Viable Treatments and Remedies for Men with Man Boobs
Whatever the cause or reason, you've got man boobs. And you wish you didn't. Luckily, there are many ways you can correct or reduce the size of your breasts.
1. Surgery for Gynecomastia
Man boobs surgery might be the most efficient way to get rid of unwanted breast tissue. The type of surgery performed depends in large part on the classification of your gynecomastia and whether you need to have breast tissue removed or a combination of breast tissue and fat.
The technical term for gynecomastia surgery is reduction mammaplasty. Depending on your specific case, it can include liposuction, excision of the breast tissue, and repositioning of the nipples or areolas.
While reduction mammaplasty is very effective, it has a few drawbacks. One thing that might stand in your way is the cost of the surgery. In the US, the average cost of gynecomastia surgery in 2016 was more than $3,500.
It's worth noting that unless you can prove that there's a medical benefit to removing your man boobs, insurance won't cover the surgery. That means you're going to have to come up with the money on your own.
Another thing to consider is the recovery time needed after surgery. Usually, you'll have to take at least a few days off from work and will need to hold off on strength training or other exercises for even longer.
2. Avoid Illegal Drugs and Alcohol
Street drugs such as pot, heroin, and speed can all mess around with your hormone levels (along with pretty much every other area of your life). Although drinking small amounts of alcohol can have some health benefits, drinking daily or binge drinking (that's drinking more than five drinks in two hours) can increase your risk for gynecomastia.
For the sake of your looks and your overall health, it's best to avoid any drugs and too much booze.
3. Limit Exposure to Some Herbal Products
Herbs might make some shampoos and other body care products smell good, but those same products can also make your boobs grow. One study found that topical products containing lavender oil or tea tree oil contributed to enlarged breast tissue in pre-pubescent boys.
4. Exercises to Get Rid of Man Boobs
Exercise, in some cases, can help eliminate gynecomastia. The type of exercise you do matters. Usually, cardiovascular workouts, such as swimming or running will help you burn away excess fat and lose weight.
Along with cardio, it's also a good idea to focus on strengthening the muscles in the chest area. Strengthening your chest muscles can help you develop a more masculine looking, flatter chest.
5. Coolsculpting for Pseudogynecomastia
Coolsculpting is a treatment that literally freezes your fat, destroying the fat cells. If you are dealing with pseudogynecomastia, it can be an efficient way to reduce the fat in the chest area. The one drawback about Coolsculpting is that it can take some time -- up to 16 weeks -- before you see the results from the non-surgical treatment.
6. Evaluate Your Current Medications & Consider Alternatives
f a prescription medicine you're currently taking is on the list of medications that can contribute to man boobs, it can be worth it to discuss your alternatives with your doctor. It might be that there's a different option available or that you're better off coming off of the medicine.
7. Use Supplements to Reduce Breast Tissue
While some supplements can make you more likely to develop man boobs, others can offer some protection against gynecomastia. Some supplements worth considering for their anti-man boob properties include:
There are also certain supplement formulas out there, such as Gynectrol, which are created specifically to help reduce gynecomastia. In the case of gynectrol, the supplement helps increase fat burning and metabolism.
8. Medication to Reduce Man Boobs
Using medications to minimize gynecomastia is relatively rare, and there aren't drugs explicitly designed to treat man boobs. Instead, many of the medications a doctor might prescribe for gynecomastia are meant to address other related conditions.
For example, some medicines commonly used to treat breast cancer might be prescribed to treat man boobs. None of these medications are officially approved by the FDA for treating gynecomastia, according to the Mayo Clinic. If your doctor were to prescribe them, it would be as an "off-label" use.
Another drug that might help reduce male breasts is danazol oral. Danazol oral is most commonly prescribed to treat endometriosis, as it helps regulate hormone levels and increase the body's production of estrogen.
If you're interested in exploring medications to treat gynecomastia, it's best to discuss your options with your doctor.
Technically, figuring out how to hide man boobs isn't the same as treating them. But as a resort or a temporary fix, while you're waiting for a more effective treatment, concealment can be a good option.
One option is to wear a compression vest, which will help smush down your man boobs and make them less visible under your shirts.
The fit and color of your shirts can also help you hide male breasts. Stick with darker colors and avoid too-tight tops. You also want to avoid going too baggy with your shirts, as oversized can just make things more obvious.
Man boobs can ruin your self-esteem. But you don't have to live with them for very long.