A man with enlarged breasts. [photo/monitor.co.ug]
It is uncommon for men to have enlarged breasts though not entirely an unheard of condition. Medically, the condition is known as gynecomastia and it can affect men at any stage of life.
According to Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit health organization made up of health specialists, gynecomastia can affect one or both breasts, sometimes unevenly.The condition which is rarely serious but very embarrassing can also cause pain in the breasts and it affects newborns, boys undergoing puberty and older men due to changes in hormone levels among other causes. Causes of breast enlargement in men include:
The development and maintenance of sex characteristics for both men and women are controlled by two major hormones: testosterone and estrogen. The former controls male traits while the latter is responsible for female traits such as the growth of breasts. Overproduction of Oestrogen out of balance with testosterone can result in gynecomastia.
Increased body fat disrupts body hormones. Dr. Bradley Anawalt, an endocrinologist at the University of Washington Medical Center, explains that fat tissue produces a hormone called leptin that has a reproductive role. High levels of leptin leads to lower testosterone production and the levels of Oestrogen can take over leading to development breasts in a man.
Use of steroids
Many men use steroids to boost their muscle health and strength. However, steroids use has been linked to serious health issues including shrinking testicles and low sperm counts in men. Dr. Jay Pensler, a surgeon in a Chicago hospital who treats men with gynecomastia, explains that use of anabolic steroids which act as synthetic testosterone affects the natural testosterone and estrogen balance in the body leading to more pronounced results such as the growth of man boobs.
Treatment with hormones such as testosterone to get certain benefits such as improved sex life, enhanced muscle mass, mood and more can cause temporary breast growth. This is because the body converts some of the testosterone into Oestrogen as Dr.Bradley Anawalt explains. The resulting effect of an increase in estrogen is breast tenderness and growth. The change is however temporary and things get back to normal in a few days or weeks.
Some herbal beauty products
Research by the National Institute of Health (NIH) has shown that plant oils such as the tea tree or Lavender used in shampoos, soaps or lotions are associated with gynecomastia. This is because the products have estrogen-like properties hence their extensive use is not recommended in men.
Mayo Clinic lists a number of medications that can cause gynecomastia due to their side effects on the body. These include AIDS medications, Anti-anxiety medication, chemotherapy, ulcer medications and anti-androgens used to treat prostate enlargement.
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