Causes of Gynecomastia

Did you know that both men and women produce male and female hormones? It’s true! It’s how these hormones develop and increase that differentiates us.

This means minimal amounts of female hormones (estrogen) are produced in men, and minimal amounts of male hormones (testosterone) are produced in women. The male hormone, testosterone is considered an androgen and the female hormone, estradiol is one of the estrogens.

Hormone Imbalances and Other Causes

When Gynecomastia occurs, it is due to an imbalance between the androgenic and estrogenic hormones. There is usually an increase of the estrogenic hormonal effect in the male breast tissue.

Such hormonal imbalance occurs naturally at childbirth, adolescence, and in adulthood, as a normal or physiological change in the metabolism. It may also be due to a variety of conditions ranging from side effects of medication to a variety of diseases, including cancer of the breast. Fortunately, this rarely occurs with results showing 1 in 100,000 men affected, in general.

There are other causes of gynecomastia besides natural reasons. Diseases, medications, and unknown causes also create an overgrowth of male breast tissue. These unknown (idiopathic) causes of gynecomastia encompass 25% of all cases.

Natural or Physiologic Causes of Gynecomastia

Taking a closer look, you can understand how gynecomastia operates at different life stages. The understanding and acceptance of this condition is also approached differently with various age groups.

Neonatal: About 60-90% of newborns, male or female, present with transient mild gynecomastia at birth, due to the increased maternal estrogen production during pregnancy, often produce a white nipple secretion known as “witch’s milk”. The condition resolves in weeks without any problems.

Pubertal: Many boys and adolescents, present with transient gynecomastia, see the condition resolved almost always within the next 3 years. The condition may appear more commonly between 11 and 16 years of age, and the peak incidence is at 14 years of age. Pubertal gynecomastia usually resolves spontaneously, but it may persist into adulthood.

Aging: The third common time period of gynecomastia development is in men 50-85 years of age. This is often associated with the aging process, where there might be a decrease in the testosterone activity with a predominance of the estrogenic effect on the male breasts and its consequent growth.

Illnesses or Diseases That Can Cause Gynecomastia

There are many conditions that cause gynecomastia as a result of its progression as a disease. Some of the most common conditions are listed below.

Diseases

Other diseases also tend to cause the development of gynecomastia. Knowing this may lessen any cause for alarm about the condition.

  • Obesity
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Liver insufficiency, cirrhosis
  • Renal insufficiency and dialysis
  • Testicular insufficiency, or hypogonadism
  • Testosterone and androgen receptor defects or malfunctions
  • Overproduction of estrogens (aromatase excess syndrome)
  • Intersexual conditions: Klinefelter syndrome, Hermaphroditism
  • HIV

Cancers

Several different forms of male cancer can present symptoms of gynecomastia.

  • Breast
  • Testicular
  • Adrenal
  • Liver
  • Kidney

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