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Gynecomastia: Misunderstandings about Male Breast Tissue

Posted in Breast, Cosmetic Procedures

Gynecomastia Patient with surgery marks

A relatively common condition, gynecomastia is the medical term for an excess of breast tissue in males. You may have heard it referred to by its more common name, “man boobs.” In more severe cases, gynecomastia symptoms also include excess skin, downward-pointing nipples and enlarged areolas. The condition affects anywhere from 40% – 60% of men at some point in their lives. Many men are able to live with the physical effects of gynecomastia, but for others the condition is painful, uncomfortable or simply stressful.

A lot of people believe that male breast tissue comes from a poor diet and lack of exercise, but that is not always the case.

Gynecomastia is caused by a hormonal disturbance that results in a decrease of testosterone, an increase of estrogen, or both. These hormones occur naturally in men and women, but a low level of one or surplus of another can have unexpected side effects, which may include gynecomastia and overall loss of muscle mass.

Gynecomastia Causes

Common culprits that negatively affect men’s hormone levels and put them at risk for gynecomastia include:


Increased adipose tissue promotes the production of estrogen, which can lead to gynecomastia.


Men’s testosterone levels naturally decline as they age, which increases their likelihood of developing breast tissue.

Steroid Use.

Steroids alter the body’s hormone levels. When not used appropriately, they can throw off the balance. Men may notice the development of breast tissue following prolonged or improper steroid use.

Some Drugs.

Regular intake of prescription or street drugs, including amphetamines, antidepressants, blood pressure drugs, ulcer medications and others result in a decline of testosterone levels and/or a spike in estrogen.

Heavy Drinking.

Aggressive alcohol consumption is known to both lower testosterone and raise estrogen, making it a bad combination for men prone to gynecomastia.

Any Hormone-Disrupting Condition.

Malnutrition, unhealthy kidney function, thyroid disorders, some cancers and other conditions that affect the hormones can put men at risk for developing gynecomastia.

Gynecomastia is not always permanent. Some boys may develop the condition during puberty, only to see it disappear as they near the end of it. On the other hand, many men live most of their lives with no gynecomastia symptoms, only to have it manifest during middle age or later.

Reducing Gynecomastia Symptoms

While targeted muscle workouts and dietary changes will not reverse gynecomastia, some men have found that they can mask the symptoms. Dips and bench presses, for instance, can firm and tone the pectoral muscles, which can camouflage puffy breast tissue. Avoiding soy, lavender and tea tree oil in your food or bath products can help, since these ingredients are known to increase estrogen levels in both men and women. Cutting fatty foods out of your diet helps avoid unnecessary weight gain, which will only accent the size of the breast tissue.

For adult males who suffer from painful or bothersome breast tissue, cosmetic surgery can be the best cure for gynecomastia. Oftentimes, the first corrective procedure is also the last one ever needed.

If you are only experiencing excess fatty tissue, liposuction may be the only necessary procedure. If you have more severe signs of gynecomastia, direct excision may be required. In this case, the chest, nipples and areolas can be shaped and positioned to appear more masculine. Scarring is minimal, and can usually be hidden in the natural contours of the chest.

We Can Help

Gynecomastia treatment removes excess breast tissue, and can contour the chest muscles for a more permanently masculine appearance. Take control of painful, sensitive or embarrassing breast tissue: Schedule a consultation with Houston gynecomastia surgeon Dr. Chris Livingston.