I have recently encountered a number of patients complaining about having man boobs. It seems to be a growing problem (pardon the pun). I think everybody knows what we are talking about when we say man boobs.
Gynecomastia is the medical name that we commonly refer to as man boobs. But not all man boobs are created equal. Gynecomastia is a medical condition that causes the male breast to increase its fat deposition. It can cause some pain and otherwise discomfort. Many adolescent boys have some gynecomastia.
There is a difference between gynecomastia and just a fatty chest. Maybe we are talking semantics here, but many overweight guys have fatty chests and refer to this as man boobs.
Generally, gynecomastia occurs when there is an imbalance between the androgen hormones and estrogen. You read that right. Guys do have estrogen. When young boys are going through puberty, they have an increase in both estrogen and testosterone. If this gets out of balance a little, it can cause some breast development. It almost always goes away, but there are occasions when more help is needed.
There are many medications that can cause gynecomastia. Some of the more common ones are used for stomach acid reduction. Cimedidine and omeprazole are common medications used by millions that can cause gynecomastia. Many prostate medications can cause some problems as well. A simple search of the internet will reveal a long list of medications that are associated with gynecomastia.
Another common cause is testosterone “boosters.” One of the common ingredients for enhancing testosterone is DHEA. It’s a precursor to testosterone and estrogen. It can raise your testosterone, but it often raises your estrogen levels. Again, the higher your estrogen levels, the more your chances are for developing gynecomastia.
So, what is a guy with man boobs to do? First thing is to realize gynecomastia usually is benign and will often go away on its own. If you are taking some medications that might cause it, talk with your doctor about alternatives. If you are having pain or feel a hard lump, it’s best to get it checked out. If it’s simply lasting longer than you think it should, please get it checked out. I have ordered many mammograms for guys over the years and do occasionally run into some problems.
The best solution is to lose weight. The higher levels of fat in our bodies can often translate into higher levels of estrogen. High levels of estrogen are the root of the problem. It certainly would not hurt to do some bench presses and weight training, but it is weight loss itself that can really help. (People often wonder if doing sit-ups and other abdominal exercises will burn the belly fat off faster than other exercises. Unfortunately, we cannot pick and choose where are body mobilizes fat and stores it for energy.)
Be careful of any quick cures you read about on the web. There are many products that are reported to help, but I am skeptical.
Wishing You an Amazing Life,
Dr. Curtis Brown