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Understanding Gynecomastia, or Enlarged Male Breasts

Surprisingly, a medical condition few of us know about

A month ago I had the pleasure to sit down with Dr Hassan Nurein, a board-certified cosmetic surgeon who practices at a gynecomastia clinic in London and Sheffield. I have to admit that until I met Dr Nurein, I was not familiar with the term gynecomastia. I suspect that might be the case with many of our readers, as well.

This is such an important topic, and yet I've seen only a few other writers on Hubpages speak about it (some of which I'll reference later in this article). I felt compelled to raise awareness about this condition.

I want to start by thanking Dr Nurein for his time and knowledge, as my article would have little value without his input. I'll also mention that there are two ways of spelling this medical condition, "gyneacomastia" and "gynecomastia", but we'll stay consistent and stick with the latter, unless we are using direct quotes.

Gynaecomastia (sometimes referred to as "man boobs") is a common condition that causes boys’ and men’s breasts to swell and become larger than normal. It is most common in teenage boys and older men.

— National Health Service, England

Man Boobs or "Moobs"

Gynecomastia refers to man boobs, also known as 'moobs'. It's the enlargement of the breast tissue, giving the appearance of women's breast to a man's chest.

The main health issues related to gynecomastia are emotional, such as low self-esteem, social alienation, and even depression. However, in some cases, gynecomastia has been linked with male breast cancer.

What causes gynecomastia?

Dr Nurein talked me through the different causes of male breast enlargement, and the missunderstandings related to them:

  • Hormone imbalance (higher levels of oestrogen than normal)
  • Obesity (which can increase levels of oestrogen - not to be confused with fat tissue)
  • Genetic disorder (Klinefelter’s syndrome)
  • Puberty (affects hormone levels - the breast tissue usually returns to normal after puberty, once hormone levels return to normal)
  • Alcohol and illegal drug abuse
  • Prescription drugs's side effects (usually for heart disease or anti-ulcer medication)
  • Underlying health problems (kidney failure, liver disease)

What is it like to live with gynecomastia?

We all probably have someone in our lives that suffers from gynecomastia, but we just don't know it, because boys and men with this condition do everything to cover up.

Fortunately, some people shared their story in public, from writers here on Hubpages to celebrities. I'll share with you 3 stories, aiming to show what is like to live with gynecomastia and how people feel after treatment. If you're reading this and have gynecomastia, I hope you'll find out that you're not alone, definitely there's nothing wrong with you, and you can get treatment and help.

Michael - Hubpages Writer

In his insightful Hubpages article "Gynecomastia (Man Boobs) The Often Misunderstood Condition", Michael gives us glimpses of what is like to live with gynecomastia. Here are some of his quotes:

"After being mentally and physically abused to the point of having NO self esteem left by most of my classmates, I felt that I had no other choice."
"I had enough of the bullying, I had enough of the random strangers making snide remarks at me in public. I had enough of being single for the first 19 years of my life due to a medical condition."

Michael did end up having treatment, and he writes he discovered a whole new life.

"I could do whatever I wanted! No longer did I have the nagging thoughts of how my moobs looked in the shirt I was wearing. No longer did I have to pretend to hate swimming. No longer did I have to avoid getting serious with women! I was a new man with a new found sense of self respect and dignity just like that."

Cosmopolitan Redditor

About 2 years ago, a cosmopolitan redditor opened up about living with gynecomastia and what it was like to get male breast reduction surgery. This is how he described living with the condition:

"I became obsessed with my chest. Every day I would get up and look at it. And think, how can I hide this? So I would wear baggier clothes and hunch. And in the mirror I saw how it was hidden. I became an expert. And some people wouldn't see it. Black became my favorite color."

After undertaking surgery, he still doesn't find his chest perfect (a habit probably built after years of body shaming) but he is happier now:

"I'm sure now that I'm going to be a lot happier and more confident. It was a good decision."

Former BBC Presenter, Bill Buckley

In a Daily Mail interview, Bill Buckley shares the horrific experience of going topless on live television when he was suffering from gynecomastia. He still cringes at the memory of it, especially as he recalls the audience letters that came in after. Bill said that people called him freak and questioned if he was a man or a woman.

He also gives us a glimpse into what it was like to grow up with gynecomastia, and try to do everyday life activities:

"In swimming classes, I would jump in the pool immediately and stay under water until it was time to dash back into the changing room."

This is how Bill describes the feeling of seeing his chest after male breast reduction surgery:

"'It was the most wonderful sight. At last I felt like a man, not 95 per cent a man, but 100 per cent. I was euphoric."

Why you shouldn't be ashamed

Gynecomastia Treatments

Dr Nurein advises us that gynecomastia is treated on a case-by-case basis. For young boys going through puberty, there's rarely a need for a medical procedure. He strongly advises to first consult your GP, probably then a specialist, and get a clear answer for the reason behind your condition.

According to Dr Nurein, "if the cause is hormonal imbalance during puberty, we can monitor it as it usually resolves with time. If the patient is obese, losing weight might be enough to decrease the level of oestrogen. However, for most adult men we need to remove the surplus of fat and/or breast tissue and impede the development of new one. "

Dr Hassan Nurein - Gynecomastia Surgeon

"If the cause is hormonal imbalance during puberty, we can monitor it and control it with medicine. If the patient is obese, losing weight and medicine might be enough to decrease the level of oestrogen. However, for most adult men we need to remove the surplus of breast tissue and impede the development of new one. "

— Dr Hassan Nurein

Before Gynecomastia Surgery

After Gynecomastia Surgery

What can you do if you suffer from gynecomastia

As Dr. Nurein advises, start by contacting your GP. If you're not happy with the diagnosis ask to be referred to a specialist.

Alternatively, contact a private clinic directly to see a gynecomastia surgeon. Most clinics offer free consultations. After that you'll have a good understanding of what results you can expect and how to start treatment.

Also, although gynecomastia is usually treated by surgery (unless you are at puberty), here are a few things you could do to try help your condition:

  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol
  • Refrain from illegal drugs (cannabis, anabolic steroids)
  • Read the prospect of any medication you are taking (to identify if it can raise levels of oestrogen or cause gynecomastia)

If you or someone you know has successfully undergone surgery or medical treatment, please share it with us in the comments below, it will help to encourage other people to seek treatment.

Do also leave a comment if you enjoyed this post or have any questions, and do please share it on social media and with anyone you know that could benefit from it.

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© 2016 Georgiana Dacosta

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