You more than likely are unfamiliar with a condition called gynecomastia. It’s not commonly discussed in social circles. But it is in fact a common condition that many men deal with on a daily basis. Gynecomastia occurs when excess glandular tissue causes the male breasts to become swollen and enlarged, looking almost like a female chest. A very common condition, studies have shown that about 65% of men struggle with gynecomastia, which can occur during any stage of life. Although there are usually not significant health risks involved, the condition can be painful and embarrassing for men. As a result, confidence in their appearance may plummet.
In most cases, gynecomastia is treatable with male breast reduction surgery, liposuction, or a combination of both. Board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Jules Walters with two convenient locations in New Orleans and Metairie, LA, is highly experienced in performing breast reductions as well as liposuction procedures. He works closely with patients to deliver the excellent aesthetic results that they desire. Given his extensive surgical knowledge and training, he can expertly explain gynecomastia with his male patients and share insights about the treatment of this condition.
What is gynecomastia?
An enlargement of the male breast tissue, gynecomastia is thought to be a result due to a hormone imbalance, when testosterone levels in men decrease versus the level of estrogen in the body. Testosterone is responsible for controlling such male traits as body hair and muscle mass, while estrogen controls breast growth and other female traits. It may be surprising to learn that men produce small quantities of estrogen. A decreased testosterone level can result when other conditions reduce or block its effects, or cause estrogen levels to increase.
When male estrogen levels become too high, gynecomastia can develop. Because of their mother’s estrogen levels, Dr. Walters explains, more than half of all infant boys have enlarged breasts at birth. However, this typically resolves itself within a few weeks. Also quite common during puberty, swelling in boys’ breasts usually goes away on its own within 6-24 months. Gynecomastia rates tend to ramp up again later in life. It is estimated that one in four men between the ages of 50-69 is affected by the condition.
Other causes of gynecomastia
Besides hormonal issues, other factors can contribute to the development of gynecomastia among men in the New Orleans and Metairie, LA areas. Health conditions such as kidney failure, cirrhosis of the liver, certain tumors, hyperthyroidism, and even the natural effects of aging can cause the male breasts to swell. The use of certain medications may also be responsible. These include anabolic steroids, certain anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants and antibiotics, and medications that are used to treat cancer, heart conditions, and gastric issues. Alcohol consumption and the use of certain illicit drugs also are known to cause gynecomastia. Even the use of shampoos, lotions, and soaps that contain plant oils, including lavender or tea tree, have been pointed to as a potential cause of gynecomastia.
What are the symptoms?
The primary symptom of gynecomastia is the enlargement of one or both breasts. While the glandular tissue usually swells in both breasts, only one side may be affected. The growth, which frequently appears behind the nipple, may cause the breasts to feel either firm or rubbery. Nipple pain and tenderness may also be experienced.
When gynecomastia develops, patients need to seek medical attention so that breast cancer and other serious conditions can be ruled out. Dr. Walters explains that in most cases, cancer typically affects only one breast and that the tissue may not be hard or firm. Also, very rarely, when a male breast swells, an abscess may be to blame. This can result in the patient developing a fever and experiencing pain and chills. With an abscess, the skin of the breast may be red and hot to the touch.
Treating gynecomastia in men
In some cases, it may be recommended that patients in the New Orleans and Metairie, LA area with gynecomastia undergo testosterone replacement therapy or take prescribed medications such as tamoxifen and raloxifene, which can help to reduce breast tissue. However, if the condition fails to respond well to these treatments, excess tissue may be surgically removed via liposuction or male breast reduction surgery.
When fatty tissue is the cause of gynecomastia, liposuction may be employed by board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Jules Walters of Walters Plastic Surgery in New Orleans and Metairie, LA. Similar to when lipo procedures are performed elsewhere on the body, patients are placed under general anesthesia. Small incisions are made in the breasts and excess fat cells are suctioned out through a thin tube called a cannula. This flattens the breasts so that they can appear more natural and contoured on the chest.
In severe cases of gynecomastia that are due to swollen glandular breast tissue, breast reduction surgery may be necessary. This outpatient procedure also works to remove the sagging, overstretched skin that results. As when breast reduction surgery is performed on female patients, Dr. Walters makes incisions on the male breasts. In most cases, these are located around the areola or within the natural chest creases to minimize the appearance of scars. Excess tissue and skin are excised. If necessary, the areola may be reduced in size and the nipple can be repositioned to look more aesthetically pleasing on the chest. The incisions will be closed before the surgery is completed.
As with the recovery from liposuction on the breasts, most male breast reduction patients may experience some swelling and soreness following surgery. Most can return to work in about a week and are allowed to resume exercise and other physical activities soon after that. In many cases, liposuction and breast reduction surgery can be paired if needed to further reduce the appearance of male breasts and improve the overall shape of the chest.
Although gynecomastia does not pose any serious health concerns, the large, swollen breasts that are the hallmark of this common condition in men can damage the self-esteem of male patients in New Orleans and Metairie, LA. When medications fail to reduce the size of the breasts, liposuction or breast reduction surgery can be effective for diminishing their appearance on the chest. There is no need for men to grapple with this embarrassing condition. Schedule a consultation with board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Jules Walters of at either of his two locations in New Orleans or Metairie, LA, and get back to feeling like yourself once more.