What Causes Gynecomastia (Male Boobs)?

Many men experience the discomfort of gynecomastia, an enlargement of the chest tissue often mistaken for simple fat accumulation. This condition affects many men of different ages and leads to emotional distress and discomfort. It’s not just about appearance; it affects a man’s health and confidence. Knowing what causes gynecomastia is crucial for anyone seeking relief and treatment.

To help individuals understand various treatment options and lifestyle changes to mitigate symptoms, this article discusses the factors contributing to gynecomastia and offers insights about prevention and care.

What Is Gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia is a common condition characterized by the enlargement of chest tissue in males, often leading to physical discomfort and self-consciousness. It can be triggered by many factors, including hormonal imbalances. Treatment for gynecomastia ranges from medication to surgery, depending on the severity and underlying cause of the condition.

Types of Gynecomastia

  • True Gynecomastia. Characterized by the growth of glandular tissue in the chest, true gynecomastia is the most common type. It often stems from hormonal imbalances, specifically when estrogen levels rise, or testosterone levels drop.
  • Pseudogynecomastia. This type mainly involves an increase in fatty tissue around the chest area and is often associated with weight gain. Unlike true gynecomastia, glandular tissue is not increased.
  • Pubertal Gynecomastia. Common in adolescent males, this temporary form results from the normal hormonal changes during puberty. It usually resolves on its own as hormone levels stabilize.
  • Pathologic Gynecomastia. This type indicates an underlying health problem, such as testicular tumors that affect hormone production, adrenal gland disorders, or severe liver diseases.
  • Asymmetric or Unilateral Gynecomastia. Occurring more on one side, this type can sometimes signal underlying health problems and usually prompts further clinical examination to ensure no malignancies.
  • Idiopathic Gynecomastia. When the exact cause of gynecomastia isn’t determined despite thorough hormonal and physical examination, it is referred to as idiopathic, which affects a notable percentage of cases.

Common Symptoms of Gynecomastia

  • Enlarged Chest Tissue. Gynecomastia primarily manifests as an increase in glandular tissue around the chest area. This benign enlargement mainly results from hormonal imbalances, particularly when estrogen levels overshadow testosterone levels.
  • Puffy or Swollen Nipples. A common symptom of gynecomastia is puffy or swollen nipples caused by glandular tissue growth beneath the nipple. This can result in nipple tenderness and sensitivity.
  • Chest Tenderness. Individuals with gynecomastia often experience chest tenderness. This discomfort is not typically severe but can be a continuous annoyance affecting daily activities.
  • Nipple Discharge. In some cases, one or both nipples may excrete discharge. While nipple discharge is less common, it warrants immediate attention and a thorough physical examination by a healthcare provider.
  • Asymmetry in Chest Size. Gynecomastia can occur in either one or both chests, sometimes leading to asymmetrical chest sizes. This variation can cause both physical and emotional distress for the individual.
  • Fatty Tissue Accumulation. Excessive fatty tissue might accumulate in the chest area, which is sometimes mistaken as pure gynecomastia but technically refers to pseudo gynecomastia, which comprises fat deposits rather than glandular tissue.
  • Visible Chset Enlargement. A clear visual increase in chest size is an indication of gynecomastia, which can become a cosmetic concern and could necessitate psychological consultation or consideration of treatment options like medical treatment or surgical removal for severe or chronic gynecomastia.

What Causes Man Boobs?

Hormonal Imbalances

Gynecomastia often arises from imbalances between estrogen and testosterone levels in the body. Commonly thought of as a female hormone, estrogen promotes chest tissue growth, while testosterone inhibits it. When the estrogen levels are disproportionately high or the testosterone levels are too low, chest glandular tissue can develop abnormally in males.

Medications and Drugs

Certain medications are known to cause gynecomastia as an adverse effect. This includes anti-androgens used for prostate cancer therapy, anabolic steroids, calcium channel blockers to treat high blood pressure, and some antipsychotics. The drugs may cause hormonal imbalances or directly affect the glandular tissue of the chest.

Liver Diseases

Liver diseases, particularly those like cirrhosis, which alter liver function, can influence gynecomastia. The liver is instrumental in regulating hormone levels, including estrogen and testosterone. Damage to the liver can hinder this regulation and may lead to elevated estrogen levels relative to testosterone, contributing to chest tissue development.

Kidney Dysfunction

Impaired kidney function can cause changes in hormone levels due to the body’s inability to properly filter and balance hormones. Patients on maintenance dialysis often experience hormonal issues, including gynecomastia, due to these dysfunctions.


Increased fatty tissue can lead to higher production of estrogen precursors. Adipose tissue, or body fat, contains aromatase, an enzyme that converts androgens (like testosterone) into estrogen. Higher amounts of fat deposits can elevate estrogen levels and stimulate the development of chest tissue in men.

Puberty and Aging

Pubertal gynecomastia occurs frequently among adolescent males due to the fluctuations in hormone levels during these years. Similarly, men can experience hormonal shifts as they age, typically around the andropause period, which may lead to the development of gynecomastia.


Certain tumors, such as testicular tumors (including Leydig cell tumors), adrenal tumors, and pituitary gland tumors, can secrete hormones that alter the natural balance of estrogen and testosterone in the body, which may lead to gynecomastia.

Use of Certain Supplements and Products

Some over-the-counter supplements and products, such as those containing tea tree oil or lavender oil, have been linked to gynecomastia. These products may have estrogen-like properties that disrupt hormone levels and promote chest tissue growth.

Chronic Stress and Emotional Distress

Chronic stress alters the function of the adrenal glands and can disrupt the hormone cortisol, which can influence testosterone production and overall hormone balance. This hormonal disruption can potentially contribute to the development of gynecomastia.

When Does Gynecomastia Usually Occur?

  • At Birth. Newborn males often exhibit temporary gynecomastia. This is attributed to the estrogen levels passed from mother to child during pregnancy. This early form of gynecomastia resolves within a few weeks as hormone levels normalize.
  • During Puberty. Adolescent gynecomastia affects more than half of adolescent males. The growth of glandular tissue in the chests during this time is caused by hormonal imbalances, specifically the fluctuations in estrogen and testosterone levels. This condition generally self-corrects within six months to two years.
  • In Adulthood. Gynecomastia in adults is prevalent, particularly in men over 50. Decreased testosterone production and increased body fat can lead to enhanced estrogen levels, which stimulates the development of chest tissue.
  • During Specific Medical Treatments. Certain medical treatments can induce gynecomastia. For example, androgen deprivation therapy for prostate cancer patients, the use of anti-androgens, and some drugs like calcium channel blockers have been linked with this condition.

How Is Gynecomastia Diagnosed?

  • Consultation and Health History. The diagnosis of gynecomastia starts with a detailed discussion of symptoms and medical history to identify any potential causes, such as the use of certain medications like anti-androgens or conditions like liver diseases.
  • Physical Examination. A thorough physical exam focuses on palpating (examining by touch) the chest tissue to determine the presence of glandular versus fatty tissue, which helps distinguish gynecomastia from simple fat deposits.
  • Hormonal Studies. Blood tests can assess hormone levels and check for hormonal imbalances, including abnormal estrogen or testosterone levels. These tests often include examining the functions of the adrenal glands and pituitary gland.
  • Imaging Tests. In some cases, imaging tests such as mammography or ultrasound are used to examine the chest tissue structure more closely to distinguish between gynecomastia and possible breast cancer or testicular tumors.
  • Endocrine System Evaluation. Further tests may be conducted to check the functioning of glands that regulate hormones, particularly if a hormonal imbalance is suspected. Testing may include measuring serum estradiol levels or luteinizing hormone, which can indicate pituitary function.

Common Treatment Methods for Gynecomastia 

Balanced Diet

A balanced diet and nutrition can help manage body weight and decrease fat deposits to reduce fatty tissue in the chest. Green vegetables, lean proteins, and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help correct hormone imbalances by improving overall body health. This can potentially influence estrogen and testosterone levels.

Regular Exercise

Engaging in regular exercise, especially strength training and cardiovascular workouts, can help balance hormone levels and reduce the volume of fatty tissue around the chest area. Exercise can also help in enhancing testosterone levels naturally, which may counteract the effects of hormone imbalance causing gynecomastia.

Medication Review and Adjustment

For drug-induced gynecomastia, a healthcare provider might recommend changing or stopping the causing agent. Medications like anti-androgens, some anti-psychotic medications, and certain heart medicines, such as calcium channel blockers, can lead to chest tissue growth if not appropriately managed.

Hormonal Therapy

Medications that adjust hormone levels, such as those altering the estrogen to androgen ratio or blocking estrogen precursors, can be effective in treating gynecomastia. Examples include aromatase inhibitors like Anastrozole or tamoxifen, which have shown beneficial effects in randomized, placebo-controlled studies in managing symptoms.

Surgical Removal of Glandular Tissue

Surgical treatment, or removal of the glandular tissue, is considered when gynecomastia does not improve with alternative treatments or causes significant pain or social embarrassment. This method can effectively restore the natural contour of the chest but might entail risks of surgical complications. A detailed discussion with a certified surgeon is vital to understand the potential outcomes and risks.


This technique focuses on removing fatty tissue but does not address the glandular component directly. It is commonly employed when excessive fat deposits are a component of gynecomastia. This procedure might be combined with surgical removal of glandular tissue for comprehensive results.

How to Prevent Gynecomastia?

  • Monitor Medications. Certain medications significantly increase the risk of gynecomastia, including steroids and drugs used in the treatment of prostate cancer patients. Always discuss potential side effects with your healthcare provider and explore alternatives if needed.
  • Maintain a Balanced Diet. A nutritious diet helps regulate hormones and can reduce the risk of gynecomastia. Focus on whole foods and lean proteins, and reduce intake of processed foods and excessive fats that might disrupt hormonal balance.
  • Exercise Regularly. Staying active can help maintain a healthy weight and balance hormones. Excessive fat, especially around the chest, can heighten the risk of gynecomastia due to increased estrogen levels.
  • Limit Alcohol and Avoid Illicit Drugs. Alcohol can alter estrogen and testosterone levels, thus contributing to gynecomastia. Drugs like marijuana and anabolic steroids are also known contributors and should be avoided.
  • Check Your Health Regularly. Regular check-ups can catch hormonal imbalances early. It’s especially crucial for prostate cancer patients undergoing treatment as they might be at a higher risk of gynecomastia.
  • Know the Treatment Options. Should prevention not be entirely possible, understanding the treatment of gynecomastia, which may involve medication or surgery, is important. Early intervention often ensures better outcomes.

Start Your Journey to Recovery With Toronto Gynecomastia: Contact Us Now

While understanding what causes gyno is helpful, taking the next steps toward treatment is most important. Being informed and taking action is essential when dealing with a condition like gynecomastia. Seeking professional guidance and considering all available treatment options can dramatically improve your quality of life.

With Toronto Gynecomastia, you can access top-tier medical experts who will guide you through a personalized treatment path to treat your condition. We are committed to delivering exceptional care and effective solutions to support your recovery journey.

Don’t let gynecomastia control your life. Reach out to us today!