What Is Gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia is a medical term used to describe the enlargement of breast tissue in males. While it might sound uncommon, it’s common and can happen at any age. This condition results in the development of breasts that are larger and firmer than typically expected in men.

What Are the Causes of Gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia has several potential underlying causes. The development of breast tissue in males occurs due to an imbalance between two hormones—estrogen and testosterone. While it’s usually not a serious health concern, understanding the causes of gynecomastia can help individuals address the condition effectively. Here are some common factors that contribute to gynecomastia:

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal imbalances, often triggered by increased estrogen relative to testosterone, can lead to gynecomastia. This can occur during puberty when hormonal fluctuations are common.


Gynecomastia is quite common during puberty, as hormone levels fluctuate. This condition typically resolves on its own within a couple of years.


Testosterone levels may decline as men age, while estrogen levels remain relatively stable. This imbalance can contribute to the development of gynecomastia in older individuals.


Certain medications, such as anti-androgens (used to treat prostate conditions), anabolic steroids, some anti-depressants, and certain heart medications, can interfere with hormone levels and lead to gynecomastia.

Medical Conditions

Some medical conditions, such as disorders of the testes, thyroid issues, and kidney failure, can disrupt hormonal balance and contribute to gynecomastia.

Lifestyle Factors

Excessive alcohol consumption, use of recreational drugs, and obesity can impact hormone levels and increase the risk of gynecomastia.

Hereditary Factors

A family history of gynecomastia may indicate a genetic predisposition to the condition.


In rare cases, testicular or adrenal tumours can produce hormones that lead to gynecomastia.

Nutritional Supplements

Certain herbal products or nutritional supplements can contain substances that impact hormone levels and contribute to gynecomastia.

What Are Some Common Symptoms of Gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia can manifest with a variety of signs. While not typically harmful, recognising the common symptoms of gynecomastia is essential for understanding and addressing the condition. Here are some common symptoms to look out for:

Enlarged Breast Tissue

The primary symptom of gynecomastia is the enlargement of one or both breasts. This can range from a small amount of tissue to more noticeable growth.

Breast Sensitivity or Tenderness

Some individuals with gynecomastia may experience breast tenderness or sensitivity, which can be discomforting.

Puffy or Swollen Nipples

The nipples can become puffy or swollen in individuals with gynecomastia due to breast tissue growth underneath.


Gynecomastia can affect one breast more than the other, leading to an asymmetrical appearance.

Psychological Impact

While not a physical symptom, gynecomastia can have emotional effects, such as self-consciousness or reduced self-esteem, especially if the breast enlargement is noticeable.

Pain or Discomfort

Some individuals may experience mild pain or discomfort in the breast area.

How Is Gynecomastia Diagnosed?

Diagnosing gynecomastia involves a medical evaluation considering physical symptoms and potential underlying causes. While gynecomastia is usually harmless, a proper diagnosis is important to rule out other conditions and ensure appropriate management. Here’s how gynecomastia is typically diagnosed:

Medical History

Your healthcare specialist will begin by discussing your medical history, including any medications you’re taking, past illnesses, family history of gynecomastia or breast conditions, and any other relevant information.

Physical Examination

A physical examination will be conducted to assess your breast tissue’s size, symmetry, and texture. Your healthcare specialist will also examine the nipples and surrounding areas for abnormalities.

Underlying Causes

If there are concerns about underlying causes, such as hormone imbalances or medical conditions, blood tests may be recommended to check hormone levels, liver function, and other relevant markers.

Imaging Tests

In some cases, imaging tests such as mammograms or breast ultrasounds may be conducted to help rule out other conditions like breast cancer.

What Are the Different Treatment Options for Gynecomastia?

Treating gynecomastia involves a range of approaches that depend on the severity of the condition, underlying causes, and individual preferences. While gynecomastia is usually benign, seeking treatment can alleviate discomfort and improve self-esteem. Here are different treatment options for gynecomastia:

Observation and Monitoring

In cases of mild gynecomastia, where the breast tissue is small and not causing significant discomfort, healthcare specialists may recommend monitoring the condition over time to see if it resolves on its own.


If gynecomastia is due to hormonal imbalances, your healthcare specialist might prescribe medications that help rebalance hormones.
Surgery (Gynecomastia Surgery or Male Breast Reduction) Surgical intervention may be considered for individuals with persistent or more severe gynecomastia. Gynecomastia surgery involves removing excess breast tissue and reshaping the chest for a more masculine appearance.

Treating Underlying Conditions

If gynecomastia results from an underlying medical condition, treating that condition may lead to a reduction in breast tissue.

Dr. Cho Li Wei 朱丽薇医生

Consultant Endocrinologist
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