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What are the causes of gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia is a condition that affects men, causing breast enlargement and tenderness. This can be a source of embarrassment and can have a negative impact on a man’s self-esteem. Gynecomastia is more common than you might think, affecting up to 60% of men at some point in their lives. While gynecomastia is not typically a serious health condition, it can cause emotional distress and can be a sign of an underlying medical problem.

What are the causes of gynecomastia?

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Gynecomastia

The physical symptoms of gynecomastia include:

  • Swollen breast tissue
  • Breast enlargement
  • Breast tenderness
  • Firm, rubbery mass beneath the nipple area

Diagnosing gynecomastia involves a physical exam and a medical history review. Blood tests may also be ordered to determine hormone levels and rule out any underlying health conditions that could be causing the breast enlargement.

Causes of Gynecomastia

Hormonal causes of gynecomastia Hormonal imbalances are the most common cause of gynecomastia. This can be due to a decrease in testosterone levels or an increase in estrogen levels. The following are some of the hormonal causes of gynecomastia:

  • Pubertal gynecomastia: This is the most common type of gynecomastia and occurs during puberty when hormone levels are fluctuating.
  • Aging: As men age, their testosterone levels decrease, and estrogen levels may increase, leading to gynecomastia.
  • Hypogonadism: This condition occurs when the body does not produce enough testosterone, leading to breast enlargement.
  • Estrogen-producing tumors: Some tumors produce estrogen, leading to an increase in estrogen levels and breast enlargement.

Medication-induced gynecomastia Certain medications can cause gynecomastia as a side effect. These include:

  • Anti-androgens used in prostate cancer treatment
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Some antibiotics

Health conditions and diseases causing gynecomastia There are several health conditions and diseases that can cause gynecomastia. These include:

  • Liver disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Thyroid problems
  • Malnutrition
  • Testicular tumors
  • Klinefelter syndrome

Other factors contributing to gynecomastia Other factors that may contribute to gynecomastia include:

  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Certain herbal supplements
  • Exposure to environmental toxins

Treatment Options for Gynecomastia

There are several treatment options available for gynecomastia depending on the underlying cause, severity of symptoms, and the patient’s overall health. Some treatment options may involve medical management, while others may require surgical intervention. Here are some common treatment options for gynecomastia:

Medical Treatment

Hormonal therapy:

This is often the first line of treatment for patients with gynecomastia. Hormonal therapy involves the use of medications that suppress the activity of estrogen or increase the levels of testosterone in the body. Examples of medications used in hormonal therapy for gynecomastia include:

  • Tamoxifen: This medication is a selective estrogen receptor modulator that blocks the action of estrogen on breast tissue.
  • Clomiphene: This medication is a selective estrogen receptor modulator that stimulates the production of testosterone in the body.
  • Danazol: This medication is a synthetic androgen that decreases the production of estrogen in the body.

Aromatase inhibitors:

Aromatase inhibitors are medications that block the activity of the enzyme aromatase, which converts androgens to estrogens. Aromatase inhibitors are commonly used in the treatment of breast cancer, but they can also be effective in the treatment of gynecomastia.

Androgen therapy:

Androgen therapy involves the use of medications that increase the levels of testosterone in the body. Androgen therapy is effective in the treatment of gynecomastia caused by low testosterone levels or hypogonadism.

Surgical Treatment


Liposuction is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that involves the removal of excess fat from the breast tissue. Liposuction is often used in the treatment of gynecomastia caused by excess fatty tissue.


Mastectomy is a surgical procedure that involves the removal of glandular breast tissue. Mastectomy is often used in the treatment of gynecomastia caused by excess glandular tissue.

Combination therapy:

Combination therapy involves the use of both medical and surgical treatment options for gynecomastia. Combination therapy is often used in the treatment of severe or persistent gynecomastia.

Frequency asked questions

Q: What is gynecomastia?

A: Gynecomastia is a medical condition characterized by the enlargement of breast tissue in males, often resulting in breast development and tenderness.

Q: What causes gynecomastia?

A: Gynecomastia can be caused by a variety of factors, including hormonal imbalances, certain medications, liver disease, and obesity.

Q: Is gynecomastia a serious medical condition?

A: Gynecomastia is generally not a serious medical condition, but it can cause psychological distress and self-consciousness for those who have it.

Q: How is gynecomastia diagnosed?

A: A healthcare provider may diagnose gynecomastia through a physical exam, medical history, and laboratory tests to determine hormone levels.


Gynecomastia is a common condition that can cause significant physical and emotional distress in affected individuals. While gynecomastia can be a benign condition, it is important to identify and treat any underlying causes of the condition. Treatment options for gynecomastia include medical management and surgical intervention. The choice of treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the condition, severity of symptoms, and the patient’s overall health. Patients with gynecomastia should seek medical advice and treatment from a qualified healthcare provider to ensure the best possible outcome.

The information provided on this website is intended for general informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The content of this website should not be used for the purpose of medical diagnosis or treatment. Readers are advised to consult with Kenneth R. Francis, MD

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Kenneth R. Francis, MD

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