What Causes Gynecomastia?

what causes gynecomastia in men male breast enlargement

Gynecomastia is a condition in which the breast gland tissues of the male breasts enlarge due to the hormonal imbalance of estrogen and testosterone. Gynecomastia can affect one breast or both breasts or it can occur evenly on the whole breast or unevenly. This condition can affect men at all stages of life whether it is newborns, boys who are at puberty, or older men. 

Gynecomastia is not a medical emergency but men who suffer from this condition can be embarrassed in their appearance. Gynecomastia can be painless but some people do experience pain. Treatment for gynecomastia can be given by Matthew J. Lynch MD using medications or plastic surgery so that you are confident in your appearance and pain-free. Sometimes gynecomastia can go away on its own or it can last and require treatment. 

What Causes Gynecomastia? 

When you have a hormonal imbalance such that your estrogen levels increase more than testosterone, you are at a higher risk of gynecomastia. Estrogen helps in the development of female sexual characteristics including breast development during puberty while testosterone helps in the development of male sexual characteristics in puberty. Males also have estrogen in small amounts. 

Infants can develop gynecomastia when they are born because of exposure to high levels of maternal estrogen when they are in the uterus. Gynecomastia in adolescent boys develop because of excess estrogen but this condition resolves within 6 months to 2 years. Gynecomastia can persist until the age of 50 to 69 years. 

Gynecomastia can also be caused by some medications which cause an imbalance of testosterone and estrogen. Some of the drugs that cause gynecomastia include anti-androgenic medications that are used to treat prostate cancer or benign prostate hypertrophy. Gynecomastia can also be caused by medications that are used to treat AIDs. 

Medications that are used to treat anxiety like diazepam, antidepressants, and antibiotics can also be used to cause gynecomastia in men. Other medications that can cause gynecomastia include street drugs like marijuana, heroin, and methadone. 

Gynecomastia can also be caused by some medical conditions like hypogonadism which is caused by diseases of the pituitary gland or disease that interfere with the normal production of testosterone. Tumors of the adrenal gland, the testes, or the pituitary gland can also cause gynecomastia by producing hormones that interfere with the balance between estrogen and testosterone. 

Kidney failure also causes gynecomastia and many men who undergo dialysis for treatment of kidney failure can have gynecomastia. 

Gynecomastia has also been reported in people who have liver failure and cirrhosis after chronic alcoholism. Malnutrition lowers the levels of testosterone in men while the amount of estrogen remains unaltered and this can predispose someone to gynecomastia. Gynecomastia can also occur due to old age because of the decline of testosterone and increase of estrogen especially in men who are overweight. An increase in the hormone called thyroxine in hyperthyroidism also triggers gynecomastia. 


Gynecomastia is a condition that presents with enlarged breasts in men due to an imbalance of testosterone and estrogen levels in the body. Some factors increase this hormonal imbalance like kidney failure and liver failure, disease of the testes or the pituitary gland, and some medications like antidepressants and drugs for HIV. 

You are at a higher risk of gynecomastia if you are at puberty or old age, if you use androgens to enhance athletic performance, and if you have diseases like tumors of the pituitary gland. You should seek medical attention if you are uncomfortable with your appearance or if you are experiencing pain.

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