What is gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia refers to the condition that causes men's breasts to swell and become bigger than normal.

Is gynecomastia a serious condition?

It is not a serious condition in itself, but its very nature is that it impacts men's sense of self, and can have a crushing impact on their self-esteem. This is exacerbated by the likelihood of jokes being made at their expense. Therefore it is a good idea to address the issue. In fact, in itself, apart from the psychological implications, one may not even have to see a doctor unless there is pain or tenderness, discharge from nipples or swelling.

What causes gynecomastia?

The interplay of two hormones is the key factor. Oestrogen, often referred to as the female hormone, leads to growth in breast tissue. In men, given higher levels of testosterone, this growth is checked. An imbalance--relatively low level of testosterone--can cause breasts to develop. A number of medications and treatments can cause gynecomastia as side-effects, so it is important to check any medication that one is on for that possibility.

Who is at risk?

Men are likely to experience gynecomastia at two stages in their life. First, around puberty when the testosterone levels are supposed to go up significantly, to drive the various coming of age events such as sperm production, development of facial hair and deepening of voice. The second stage is typically around the age of 40, because levels of testosterone peak in early adulthood, and decline steadily thereafter. In both cases, obesity increases the likelihood of gynecomastia.

Can exercise help?

Yes, being in the right weight category given your height (BMI), is good to offset the risk. Upper body workouts, with or without weights to develop chest muscles is also often suggested.

What is the right treatment for gynecomastia?

Often treatment may not be required for gynecomastia, as most causes go away with age. Management of the condition is best done by combating obesity, if that is a cause, or removing some medication, after discussion with your doctor, if that is causing it. In general it is a good idea to evaluate testosterone levels as one ages. This can be done through blood tests, but also through the ageing male symptoms (AMS) questionnaire presented here.

Index your experience of ageing

What are "moobs"?

Moobs is urban slang referring to male breasts and is a contraction of 'man boobs.' As we have noted, the condition inspires harsh jokes, typically from other men, and this term is an example of that.