Gynecomastia is enlargement of the male breast tissue. It is common in men and boys at various stages of development and in association with certain medical conditions. True gynecomastia refers to enlarged glandular tissue rather than fat (adipose) tissue. The presence of fat tissue that appears in the breast area is known as pseudogynecomastia.
In general, gynecomastia results from a hormonal imbalance in the body. All normal humans have both male and female hormones to a certain extent. Gynecomastia occurs when male hormones (androgens) are relatively low compared to the level of female hormones (estrogens) in the body. This can transiently occur during normal development of boys, resulting in gynecomastia in infants or during puberty. In these cases, gynecomastia usually resolves on its own as hormone levels return to normal.
In other cases, medical conditions or medical treatments can create the hormonal environment in the body that allows gynecomastia to develop. Examples of conditions that may be associated with gynecomastia include:
A wide range of medications have also been associated with the development of gynecomastia. Examples include the diuretic spironolactone (Aldactone), some calcium channel blockers and ACE inhibitor drugs used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure), some antibiotics, anti-ulcer drugs, and highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) for HIV disease, which may cause fat redistribution leading to pseudogynecomastia or, in some cases, true gynecomastia.
Finally, drugs of abuse (for example, alcohol, marijuana, and heroin) are known causes of gynecomastia. Lavender oil and tea tree oil, when used in skin-care products, have also been associated with gynecomastia.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/8/2014
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