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Can gynecomastia be treated with weight loss and exercise?

Gynecomastia is a medical term used for enlarged or swollen breast condition in males. It occurs due to excess tissue under the breasts. Breast enlargement may be accompanied by pain and tenderness in some individuals.

Breasts consist of glandular tissue and fatty tissue. Glandular tissue is dense and firm while fatty tissue is soft. A man with gynecomastia is likely to have more than normal levels of both types of tissue, resulting in abnormally large looking breasts. 

Pseudo gynecomastia or false gynecomastia refers to excess fat deposits under the breast area. However, true gynecomastia occurs when there’s excess growth of glandular tissue beneath the breasts. In such a case, male chest reduction surgery is the best treatment for gynecomastia.

It is a common condition affecting men and boys, with hormonal imbalance being the most prevalent cause. 

Who can get gynecomastia? And what are the possible causes?

The hormone testosterone guides sexual characteristics in males, whereas estrogen governs sexual traits in women. However, men and women both have the two hormones in some proportion. Males make more of testosterone and females make more of estrogen. 

Estrogen is primarily responsible for the development of breasts in females. But when the male body starts making too much estrogen and low testosterone, it may result in abnormal breast enlargement.

Natural hormone changes

Gynecomastia can occur naturally in men at different phases of life.

  • In Infants: Male infants sometimes take excess levels of estrogen from their mothers upon birth, resulting in enlarged breasts. Nonetheless, the condition resolves within two to three weeks post-birth.
  • At Puberty: Males can develop gynecomastia at puberty due to hormonal changes in the body. In such cases, gynecomastia may take anywhere from six months to two years to go away.
  • In Men: One in four men is likely to develop this condition between the age of 50 and 69. With age, men produce less testosterone and usually put on fat.

Health conditions

Medical conditions that can disrupt natural hormone balance and cause gynecomastia includes:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Tumour in adrenal or pituitary glands
  • Malnutrition

Medications

Between 10 to 25% of cases of gynecomastia can result from medications and herbal products. These include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Anti-anxiety medication
  • Certain antibiotics
  • Anti-depressants
  • Some HIV medications
  • Amphetamines, marijuana, heroin (illegal drugs)
  • Tea-tree and lavender oil

However, the medical evidence on their effect on gynecomastia is limited.

Read: How Chemotherapy Works Against Cancer

How to get rid of gynecomastia?

The foremost thing you should do as soon as you notice anything unusual with your chest is to consult a doctor. Your doctor will first run some blood tests and imaging tests to precisely diagnose your condition and identify the likely cause.

The best treatment for gynecomastia will depend on its cause evaluated by your doctor. If the condition occurs naturally, it usually goes away on its own. Most individuals with mild gynecomastia do not necessarily require treatment.

However, in cases where gynecomastia occurs due to some underlying health concern, treating the target issue will prove helpful.

If some medication is responsible for your breast enlargement, then as per doctors advise stopping its use or changing the drug will improve your condition within a few months.

Men who find this condition embarrassing and whose quality of life is impacted by it can surely opt for surgical treatment to get rid of gynecomastia.

Male chest reduction surgery

Male chest reduction surgery is the most effective treatment to get rid of gynecomastia and restore your usual chest appearance.

Doctors may also advise surgery for men who find their condition is affecting them emotionally and lowering their self-esteem.

The doctors perform gynecomastia procedures under general anaesthesia. The complete surgery typically takes around one to two hours to complete.

  • Liposuction: Liposuction involves removing the fatty tissue underneath the breast area.
  • Mastectomy: This involves the removal of the glandular tissue. It is less invasive and involves small incisions.

To further maintain the effects of the gynecomastia procedure, a well-rounded approach is vital. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, healthy dietary habits will play a long-term role in the overall efficacy of the surgery.

Can weight loss and exercise help treat gynecomastia?

Can gynecomastia be cured without surgery? It is often the question asked by men. No doubt, options like weight loss and exercise are great ways to enhance your overall health and fitness, but you cannot cure true gynecomastia with it. 

Though most people think obesity to be the main reason behind gynecomastia, that’s seldom the case. Being overweight can only contribute to worsening the problem but isn’t the primary culprit.

Exercise and diet help eliminate fat in the body and are popular among people when it comes to male breast reduction without surgery. Since the cause of true gynecomastia is excess glandular tissue in the breasts, it doesn’t respond to diet and work-outs. In fact, in some cases, weight loss and exercise has caused gynecomastia to become more apparent, leaving you with a sole surgical option.

That said, weight loss and exercise may be partially effective in treating pseudo gynecomastia, or when there is excess fat tissue under the breast area. You can try jogging, swimming, cycling to burn body fat and do push-ups to tone your chest muscles.

Whatever the case, you need to consult a doctor first for a proper diagnosis to find the best gynecomastia cure which suits your condition.

Coping with gynecomastia

There is no denying the fact that gynecomastia can often lead to stress, anxiety and confidence issues in men. As such, it is significant to reach out to your family or friends for your emotional well-being. You can also consult a counsellor who will guide you in the right direction. 

Always remember, seeking help and support isn’t a sign of weakness. Talk to a specialist right away, and you’ll be on the road to recovery in no time.

Dr. Rohan Khandelwal
Author: Dr. Rohan Khandelwal
Dr. Rohan Khandelwal is a renowned surgeon who has completed his fellowship in breast oncology and advanced breast surgery from esteemed institutes like The Aiello Breast Center, University of Maryland. He has garnered over 17 years of clinical experience from some of the most reputed healthcare facilities across the country. He specializes in benign and cancerous breast disorders in both genders. He is also the editor in chief for the New Indian Journal of Surgery and Journal of Young Medical Researcher.
 
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