Gynecomastia in Teenagers: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment Options
Just recently, it has been noticed that Tom, 14 has developed an unusually negative attitude. He is no longer the active young boy he used to be.
Few days back, while he was going to class, he heard a group of his classmates teasing him. They mocked the fact that he had protruding breasts and even called him a girl!
This depressed him a great deal and he’s grown isolated because he feels he is not a normal guy and shouldn’t be in company of other guys, his age.
But should Tom really be worried? How should he handle this? There is hope for Tom as this guide addresses some facts about male breast enlargement, called gynecomastia, in young boys like Tom and how to effectively handle this situation.
Causes of Gynecomastia
Gynecomastiais a condition that is peculiar to men generally, whether old or young. It is that abnormal condition in which a man develops enlarged breasts and this could be embarrassing to teenagers, just like it is to adult males.
In fact there are more than 50% of teenage males that are affected by the condition. As a teenager, man boobs, usually develops as soon as you enter puberty from as young as 10 up to age 16.
What are the Symptoms of gynecomastia in teenagers?
The most common symptoms are enlarged breasts. You will notice that your breast may grow slippery or firm.
Your breasts could also be tender and sensitive, even though there is usually no severe pain. And in addition to that, development of breast bud which is common to adolescent males at puberty.
There are no specifics involved as far as size goes, but you will notice that your breasts begin to swell in shape similar to that of a woman’s. Apart from the size, there could also be a breast bud on one or both breasts.
These buds are usually about the size of a quarter or a nickel and appear during puberty. There’s no need to worry about this though as it isn’t permanent and will go away on its own.
Although, occasionally, gynecomastia that develops in puberty persists beyond two years and is referred to as persistent pubertal gynecomastia.
Causes of Pubertal Gynecomastia
Gynecomastia is a sign of the physical changes that occurs in the male body during puberty.
Although, it is not a strange phenomenon as it is mostly begins from birth, and of course with a scientific explanation for it.
There are many possible reasons for the development of man boobs, but when it comes to teenagers, it is almost always due to hormonal changes resulting in physical changes.
However, there are other possible causes such as drug abuse, genetic deficiency or the side effect of a medication you’re taking for another medical condition.
And of course if you’re overweight the excess fat will be deposited in various parts of your body such as your arms, thighs and chest.
Man boobs: Should I be worried?
To effectively comprehend this, understand that male breast enlargement starts when you’re a baby.
In the case of newborn babies, estrogen is derived from the mother so it’s not uncommon to see breast buds even in baby boys.
But these buds shouldn’t bother you as they would disappear after six months or even two years, in some cases. Then as you enter puberty, this cycle of hormonal change continues.
In some preteen boys man boobs may be brought about by a tumor that produces estrogen (a hormone responsible for female characteristics) though it’s rare.
Estrogen levels in females are higher, but some boys have a higher level of estrogen and this is what leads to the growth of their breasts.
This doesn’t mean you’re turning into a girl or anything funny because as puberty ends, these estrogen levels will return to normal. So,it’s just a minor change in your hormones as you begin to grow into adulthood.
Gynecomastia in teens is a common condition but not all males develop it. Although, man boobs affects more than half of male teenagers so there’s no need to worry if you have it.
You are not alone. At the same time, do not be bothered if your breasts are normal and don’t swell up during puberty because the level of swelling varies.
And regardless of the size your breasts, they will flatten by the time you enter your 20s.
So, you need not be bothered too much about this natural growth that happens to you. Stay calm and give it the time to go away and it will.
However, if the breast development stays or continues even after adolescence, then it is a genuine case of gynecomastia.
How is Diagnosis Performed?
Because the symptoms are so obvious, there’s usually no need for a diagnosis.
If tests will be performed it’s going to include a medical examination and a check of your medical records and what meds you have been taking.
At least that’s how it’s usually done if both breasts are enlarged. But if only one breast is swollen and is hard or tender, your doctor might recommend a biopsy just to make sure there aren’t any other reasons for it.
It’s hard to emphasize this enough: males can develop breast cancer as well so if you notice one breast has a lump, inform your doctor immediately.
This becomes even more urgent if you have close relatives that have cancer. A biopsy can determine if it’s cancerous or not so have it checked immediately.
What is the best method to treat gynecomastia in Teenagers?
Most times, the condition of gynecomastia usually doesn’t require medical treatment. When breast enlargement manifests in male teens it is better to leave it alone, because more often than not it’s going to go away on its own.
The extraneous tissue responsible for breast swelling will flatten out even if you don’t take any medications.
In fact you’re probably going to make things worse if you take steps to prevent it because you’ll be preventing your body from reaching its natural growth potential.
It is also important to be examined by your doctor to ascertain if your condition is fat induced (pseudogynecomastia) or caused by tissue growth (gynecomastia) so that the most effective treatment method would be adopted, given both scenarios.
If your gynecomastia is caused by medication, stop taking that drug and your breasts should return to normal size. In some instances you have to undergo treatment to cure gynecomastia.
If the condition is brought about by an increase in estrogen and / or low testosterone levels, your doctor may recommend hormone therapy.
The last treatment method to consider is surgery, but this is almost always applicable only in adult gynecomastia cases and only if the other treatments don’t work.
But if the cause is due to excess weight and poor diet, the best recourse is to change your diet and lifestyle and exercise regularly.
This is probably going to be difficult for many, but it is the best option, and unless your dietary habits change, the problem will not go away.
Even if you have surgery and have the fats removed, they will return if you don’t change your lifestyle.
Are there any differences between Adult and Teenage Gynecomastia?
Though the symptoms may be similar, pubertal and adult gynecomastia are two different things and should not be confused with one another.
Adult gynecomastia has many other possible causes such as hormonal imbalance, thyroid problems or cancer of the pituitary gland.
There is also evidence that smoking, marijuana and heroin abuse can lead to breast enlargement in adult males.
The use of the following medications can also lead to gynecomastia, both in teens and adults:
- Dexamethasone, prednisone and other steroids
- Cimetidine and other medications used as ulcer treatment
- Phenytoin and other medications used as epilepsy treatment
- Some types of heart medication like digitalis might lead to breast swelling as well
- The drugs used in chemotherapy may also lead to gynecomastia. Alkylating agents, which are a special group of anticancer drugs, are also known to cause breast swelling in men.
- Antiandrogen drugs like spironolactone, cyproterone and flutamide may induce breast enlargement
- Antidepressant and antianxiety drugs like Valium and tricyclic antidepressants carry a lot of side effects, and one of those is gynecomastia
When Should I See a Doctor?
Gynecomastia in teenagers is usually not a serious issue as it is part of growing up.
If you feel that you need to see a doctor and confirm this for your peace of mind, then by all means you should.
You should only see a doctor is if you feel physical pain in your chest or if you think the enlargement is due to medication you’re taking.
It is recommended that you see a doctor or surgeon specializing in the treatment of individuals with gynecomastia.
He would be in a better position to clarify and answer each and every question you may have, especially if the condition persists beyond puberty.
Following these guides, you are well on your way to getting rid of that man boobs and you should be able to walk tall again with a renewed self-confidence.
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