Gynecomastia and lipomastia are two conditions related to men; however, there is a distinct difference. Gynecomastia refers to an enlarged gland tissue in the breast of a male child or adult. Lipomastia, on the other hand, also called pseudogynecomastia, refers to fat deposits in an obese man’s breast. Knowing the difference is essential in getting resolution.
What Causes Gynecomastia
Gynecomastia is caused by an imbalance of hormone levels whereby the female hormones (estrogen) occur in higher levels than male hormones (androgens).
All people have both the male and female hormones. At puberty, a person with gynecomastia will experience the hormone levels rise and fluctuate resulting in a state where the estrogen levels remain high.
Gynecomastia can result from changing hormone levels as a child is growing. This type of gynecomastia disappears after a maximum period of two years. Gynecomastia that occurs in puberty lingers for more than two years and is called persistent pubertal gynecomastia.
Conditions That May Cause Gynecomastia
- Malnutrition and recovery from malnutrition provide a hormonal state that causes gynecomastia. Liver cirrhosis also alters hormone metabolism and can cause gynecomastia.
- Disorders of the testes (male organs) can lead to low testosterone production and high estrogen levels resulting in gynecomastia. Some of these disorders are genetic or acquired through aging, infection or low blood flow. Testicular cancers can also produce hormones that lead to gynecomastia.
- Other conditions that can lead to gynecomastia are hyperthyroidism and chronic renal failure.
Gynecomastia can be caused by side effects of using certain medications. Examples of drugs associated with gynecomastia are as follows:
- Calcium channel blockers and ACE inhibitor drugs for treating hypertension
- Antibiotics such as ketoconazole, metronidazole and isoniazid
- Anti-ulcers drugs
- Anti androgen therapies
- Abuse of drugs such as marijuana, heroin or excessive consumption of alcohol
Symptoms of Gynecomastia
The main symptom is enlarged male breasts. The breast may have a firm feel. Gynecomastia develops on both sides but the enlargement could be bigger on one side.
Gynecomastia can be distinguished from breast cancer in the following ways:
- Breast cancer develops on one side and is not centered on a person’s nipple or does not feel firm and may be associated with enlargement of the lymph nodes and nipple discharge.
Risk Factors of Gynecomastia
Males in their adolescent years stand a chance of developing gynecomastia as part of their development process. Male infants can also develop gynecomastia. Aging leads to a decline in the production of testosterone and this could lead to gynecomastia.
Diagnosis of Gynecomastia
In many cases, gynecomastia is diagnosed through a physical test. A blood test could be done to examine the kidney, liver and the function of the thyroid. In some cases, the hormone levels in a person’s blood will be measured.
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