What is gynecomastia? How do I know if I have it?

What do I need to look for to tell if what's going on with me is that I have, unfortunately, 'man boobs' or if I have that condition called gynecomastia? That's all I want to know to start. What are the distinguishing factors to tell one from the other - with certainty - and when you can distinguish one from the other, what are the options for treating both?


M, 29, California

Tags:man age 25-34 chest breasts too large gynecomastia


  • Gynecomastia is characterized by an enlargement of the male breast. Excess growth may be due to either excess fat or the development of the breast gland.
  • Gynecomastia is common in adolescent boys due to normal changes in hormone levels experienced during puberty.
  • Gynecomastia may also be caused by various external factors including some prescription medications, drug abuse, excessive alcohol consumption, or the use of anabolic steroids.
  • In some cases gynecomastia may be an indication of a more serious underlying medical condition like kidney disease, testicular cancer or diseases which affect the pituitary gland.
  • Surgery to correct gynecomastia is simple and usually takes two to three hours.
  • For more information on gynecomastia, see our Complete Guide to Gynecomastia and Male Breast Reduction.

The consensus is based on 5 doctor replies to this question. For more details, scroll down to read them.

Hi there! Good question.

Gynecomastia is the technical medical term for "man boobs," irrespective of the cause. It basically means "female breasts" and can be the result of hormonal changes, medications, tumors and other biologic causes and/or fat excess in the breast area. For most men, gynecomastia has both fatty and fibrous tissue contributing to the breast enlargement. The fibrous stuff is right under the nipple and the fat is most of the rest of the breast. Normal male tissue has very little fat in the breast unless the patient is overweight, although some men may have it as a result of genetics (for instance, it kind of runs in my own family, even when the men are not particularly overweight). 

Managing patients for gynecomastia usually includes a basic medical workup to rule out treatable conditions that might be correctible by other means. For example, if you take anabolic steroids, discontinuing them under a doctor's supervision may help reverse the condition. If you have a rare tumor in your pituitary gland secreting a hormone called prolactin (the hormone that makes females produce milk), you could have that treated surgically. There are other causes that can typically be ruled out with a hormonal and routine lab test, and sometimes a mammogram will be ordered to rule out the very rare likelihood of male breast cancer.

Assuming a negative workup, the treatment often consists of a combination of liposuction, often aided by ultrasound to break up the denser male fibrofatty breast tissue, and direct removal (like a lumpectomy) of the very dense glandular tissue right under the breast.

The surgery takes between 1 and 3 hours depending on the extent of fat, the size of the areolas (much of the surgery is done through very small incisions at the border of the nipple), etc.

Lots of great board-certified plastic surgeons including our office here in California with extensive experience in this condition.

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There is a simple self-test you can perform to see if you have breast gland development. Keep in mind that it’s not a very reliable test. It’s merely instructive and not diagnostic.

To perform a simple self-test, place two fingers on either side of your nipple and press back and forth. If you feel a firm disc of glandular tissue beneath the nipple, you may have some amount of hormone-related breast development.

The term gynecomastia is primarily associated with a hormone imbalance and an excess of female hormones. These hormones can lead to development of the male breast glands. The term also applies more broadly to any excessive development of the male breast -- which may or may not be due to elevated estrogen levels or glandular development.

Aside from a natural hormonal imbalance, breast tissue development may be due to a variety of external factors. These factors include anabolic steroid use, heart medications such as calcium channel blockers, anti-androgens used to treat prostate cancer, illegal drugs, and herbal supplements like tea tree and lavender oil.

There are also some serious medical conditions that can cause gynecomastia. These include kidney failure, testicular infection, testicular cancer, and Klinefelter's syndrome, a condition that interferes with male hormone levels.

Many men also experience what appear to be breasts but what is actually excessive chest fat deposits.

In most cases, gynecomastia is not associated with any serious men's health issues. If you feel you may have gynecomastia I encourage you to consult with a physician. If you're unhappy with the physical appearance of your chest, surgical treatment of gynecomastia is a simple procedure.

Dr. Jonathan Heistein has 2 Gynecomastia Reduction before & afters:

Gynecomastia Reduction before image performed by Dr. Jonathan HeisteinGynecomastia Reduction after image performed by Dr. Jonathan HeisteinGynecomastia Reduction before image performed by Dr. Jonathan HeisteinGynecomastia Reduction after image performed by Dr. Jonathan Heistein

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Gynecomastia is characterized by an excess of tissue on the male chest. It's popularly classified into two types -- true gynecomastia and pseudogynecomastia -- but the distinction is largely unnecessary from a surgical treatment perspective.

True gynecomastia is characterized by the abnormal development of breast gland tissue, along with excess adipose tissue and fibrous tissue. This primarily occurs in younger men or body builders.

Pseudogynecomastia, which usually occurs in older men, is characterized by excess adipose fat without the accompanying glandular tissue enlargement that defines true gynecomastia.

If needed, a mammogram can rule out which is which.

In either case, the approach to surgical treatment of male breast growth starts with liposuction to remove the fat.

The procedure typically combines an initial liposuction to remove excess fatty tissue with surgical excision of any excess fibrous and/or glandular tissue. True gynecomastia excision usually requires a drain, while pseudogynecomastia only requires liposuction.

Gynecomastia surgery (also called male breast reduction surgery) is simple, straightforward and typically takes between one and three hours.

In most cases, gynecomastia is a cosmetic problem and not a serious health concern. It’s relatively common in adolescents during the rapid hormonal changes of puberty and can lead to self-image problems for teenage boys. In most cases adolescent gynecomastia is self-correcting and disappears on its own over time.

Most cases of gynecomastia occur in older men between the ages of 50 and 70, with 25% of males in that age range having some level of breast enlargement.

If you’re unhappy with the appearance of your chest and you feel you may have man boobs, I encourage you to consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon who has expertise in treating gynecomastia.

That's a great question because gynecomastia is extremely common and it's a frequent source of embarrassment for millions of men.

Simply put, gynecomastia is the abnormal development of breast tissue in males. All males have some amount of estrogen in their bodies, just as all females have some degree of testosterone.

In cases where male estrogen levels rise too high, the male breast glands may begin to develop. The symptoms of gynecomastia are relatively easy to detect. If your nipples look puffy or you notice a rounding or pointed contour around the nipples -- that’s a good indication that you may have gynecomastia.

There are a large number of medical conditions and external factors that can cause gynecomastia. In many cases, gynecomastia will go away by itself. Often making lifestyle changes like cutting down on alcohol consumption, recreational drugs, or certain prescription medications will cause hormone levels to rebalance.

If your gynecomastia seems persistent, surgery to treat gynecomastia is simple and can usually be completed within two hours. Be sure to consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon who has experience in treating gynecomastia and has a track record of successful results. 

Gynecomastia is, by definition, any increased tissue on a male chest. If you flex and tighten your chest muscle and pinch the overlying tissue with the other hand, you will have your proof.  The question then becomes whether you can live with it or not.  If not, then your only option would be male breast reduction surgery.  Look for a plastic surgeon who is also a gynecomastia expert for the best possible result.  You can get much more information from my website, which is specifically devoted to gynecomastia.  www.gynecomastianewyork.com

Good luck!

Elliot W. Jacobs, MD, FACS

 New York City

Elliot Jacobs has 3 Gynecomastia reduction before & afters:

Gynecomastia reduction before image performed by Dr. Elliot Jacobs Gynecomastia reduction after image performed by Dr. Elliot Jacobs Gynecomastia reduction before image performed by Dr. Elliot Jacobs Gynecomastia reduction after image performed by Dr. Elliot Jacobs Gynecomastia reduction before image performed by Dr. Elliot Jacobs Gynecomastia reduction after image performed by Dr. Elliot Jacobs

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