Gynecomastia is a medical term that comes from the Greek words “woman like breasts”. This condition is not quite as uncommon as many may think as it affects approximately half of all men. Also, It is possible to affect one or both breasts. There are several reasons that a male could have enlarged breasts but unfortunately most of the time the cause is unknown.
The condition could be developmental, meaning that is occurred at birth, during puberty, or during the aging process. There is also a very large list of medications that list Gynecomastia as one of the side effects. Other reasons could include primary or secondary Hypogonadism. Primary Hypogonadism could include trauma, infection, twisted testicles, radiation, chemotherapy, or the mumps. Secondary Hypogonadism is a bit more complex and could include low testicular function, Kallmann Syndrome, and pituitary failure, which is a loss of blood supply, infection, or tumor. Gynecomastia can also be a result of tumors, systemic, including Adrenal, Cirrhosis, renal failure, or Thyrotoxicosis.
Further, it could be a result of a congenital disorder or could also be caused from a number of other reasons such as alcoholism, chest wall trauma, cystic fibrosis, herpes zoster infection, HIV, Myotonic Dystrophy, obesity, psychological stress, spinal cord injury or refeeding after malnutrition. However, more often than not the cause is idiopathic. Doctors like to make every attempt to discover the exact cause of Gynecomastia because it could make a major difference in the form of treatment.
When there is an actual cause, it is usually related to puberty in some way because that is the time when most hormonal changes take place. The fluctuations in the hormones cause excess breast tissue to develop in over half of the males that go through puberty. Of that percentage, about 90% of the males who develop Gynecomastia during puberty will find that it disappeared within three years, once the hormones settled down.
In addition to the above mentioned causes, there are still several more possibilities including leukemia, hemophilia, leprosy, Klinefelter’s syndrome, Gilbert’s syndrome, and the use of some prescription drugs, as mentioned, and also the use of some illegal drugs including marijuana, anabolic steroids, and heroin. Doctors never rule out the possibility that the underlying cause could just be something as simple as a poor diet and lack of exercise, especially if the patient is overweight.
Much research has been done on Gynecomastia and many believe that in a good majority of the cases the real cause is an altered androgen/estrogen ratio that changes the elements in the breast tissue. Now the reason for that could be a decrease in the production of androgen, an increase in estrogen production, or a decrease in sensitivity of breast tissue to androgens.
I hope this has given you a better idea of the causes of Gynecomastia. Keep in mind that in some cases when it is discovered that particular prescriptions have been a cause, the doctor can simply change the medication. For example, when treating ulcers a doctor could prescribe a medication called Tagamet. This medication has been known to cause Gynecomastia as a side effect, in which case the doctor could then change the medication to Prilosec or Zantac and the condition would fade.