If you have a male friend or loved one with enlarged breasts, you may have a few questions about the condition. The closer your relationship—especially if the man is your significant other or your son—and the more they find their “man boobs” troubling, the more you should know.
Here are some quick facts about the condition.
#1: The first thing to know about “man boobs,” is that there’s a clinical name that gives the condition the more serious tone it deserves—gynecomastia. The term literally means “womanly breasts.”
#2: Gynecomastia and can affect men and boys of any age. The good news is that in boys and young men of average weight, excess breast tissue often goes away on its own over time.
#3: The Mayo Clinic points to an imbalance of estrogen and testosterone as the main cause of gynecomastia. Therefore, it’s not unusual for newborns, boys going through puberty and older men to have enlarged breasts as their hormone levels change.
#4: Man boobs can also result from weight gain. Breasts in women and men are part fatty tissue, and male breasts become enlarged with obesity just as female breasts do. And because fat patterns are also governed by genetics, men who are not significantly overweight can also have more fat than usual in their breasts. The Mayo Clinic calls this pseudogynecomastia or false gynecomastia, since it is not a result of the growth of breast tissue.
#5: If an obese man loses a significant amount of weight, the skin covering his breasts will most likely not shrink. Saggy breast skin can be a problem for both men and women who are successful at losing weight.
#6: Other causes of gynecomastia, according to the Mayo Clinic, include drugs such as some antibiotics and anti-depression medications, as well as street drugs like anabolic steroids, marijuana and even alcohol. Health conditions such as tumors, kidney disease and liver failure can also play a part. In some patients, the source of the condition is unknown.
#7: In treating the condition, a physician will first try to determine the cause. If a disease is present, treating the underlying cause will come first.