Gynecomastia is a condition where an overproduction of glandular or fatty tissue, or a combination of both, causes men’s breasts to become enlarged, giving them the appearance of having male breasts or “man boobs.” For men who suffer from gynecomastia, the appearance of enlarged breasts on the male frame can cause a ton of anxiety and self-consciousness.
What many men might find surprising is that gynecomastia is an extremely common condition, and most men (anywhere from 70-90%) will experience some form of gynecomastia at one point or another in their lifetime.
The exact causes of gynecomastia are unknown, though the reason that most men will experience some form of gynecomastia is due to hormonal fluctuations or imbalances which may cause an overproduction of estrogen, one of the common reasons why male breasts may become enlarged.
That being said, gynecomastia can affect men differently depending on their age, and the condition may not always necessitate the same type of treatment. Here are a number of ways the effects of gynecomastia are displayed at different ages.
Gynecomastia in Babies
This may be hard to believe, but almost 90% of newborn baby boys have some form of gynecomastia. Mothers will biologically pass on estrogen to their babies in the womb, so it’s completely normal that most baby boys will be born with slightly enlarged breasts. This will typically resolve itself by the time the baby turns one.
In rare cases, excess baby breast tissue might remain past a baby’s first birthday, in which case it’s a good idea to get it checked out with a doctor.
Gynecomastia in Male Adolescents or Teens
Hormones are again the primary cause of gynecomastia in teens. At this age young men are going through puberty. Puberty is a time when hormones tend to fluctuate quite regularly and an overproduction of estrogen is a completely normal occurrence resulting in gynecomastia. Not all young men will experience an enlarged appearance in their breasts, but research shows that almost 50-60% of teenage boys may experience some mild form of gynecomastia.
At this age gynecomastia should again resolve itself once hormones adjust and more testosterone is produced. If gynecomastia persists beyond two years, an examination of the condition by a doctor might be required.
Gynecomastia in Adult Men
Gynecomastia remains pretty common in adult men. In adulthood, gynecomastia can affect around 65% of men, but the underlying reasons for the gynecomastia are a bit harder to detect at this age and hormonal imbalances may not be the primary root cause.
In adult men, gynecomastia can come about due to a number of factors, from an undetected illness to thyroid problems, but it can also be a result of the types of medications you may be taking, and also depend on how much alcohol you consume or whether you’re taking performance enhancing drugs.
When gynecomastia is diagnosed in adult men, and is moderate to severe, we usually recommend treating it with surgery. Gynecomastia surgery is a simple procedure where the excess glandular and/or fatty tissue is removed through a very small incision, which results in virtually no scarring.
Everyone is different and there are cases in which if the underlying root cause of gynecomastia is discovered and resolved, then gynecomastia may go away on its own.
Gynecomastia from Middle Aged to Senior Men
This is when we see gynecomastia become very prevalent, about 70% of men aged 50-80 will see their breasts become enlarged. Hormones return and play a factor at this age. As men age their testosterone levels gradually decrease often seeing an enlargement in the breasts. However, undiagnosed conditions, certain medications, and lifestyle also play a major factor in the appearance of gynecomastia at this age.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the only way to diagnose gynecomastia is through an in-person consultation with a board certified plastic surgeon. If you think you have gynecomastia and it’s causing you anxiety, don’t hesitate to book a complimentary consultation with one of our surgeons.