Gynecomastia, simply put, is an overdevelopment of male breast tissue. Typically gynecomastia affects newborns, adolescents, and older adult males, though the reasons for the development of the excess tissue are often different.
In pre-teen and teen boys, gynecomastia is usually caused by hormonal changes associated with puberty. It isn’t uncommon among males of this age. However, for most males going through puberty the gynecomastia usually disappears after one year. For some teens, the breast tissue doesn’t decrease after the first year or even the second year of puberty, as it does for most.
The distinction should be when the gynecomastia is large. In this case it will usually remain and can cause psychological and social problems. When this occurs, it may be an indication for early age surgery. Children as young as twelve years old have undergone gynecomastia correction surgery. It should always be done in consultation with the parents and surgeon, and sometimes a psychologist, social worker and a teacher. At this early age it is important to consult a gynecomastia expert who must be a board certified plastic surgeon.
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Visit Your Child’s Doctor
Adolescent gynecomastia may not be a serious problem. Yet in some cases, it is caused by an estrogen-producing tumor, which may be problematic if left unchecked. Typically, this only occurs in pre-teen boys that haven’t reached puberty yet, but may happen as your child enters their teens.
It is beneficial to visit your child’s doctor to talk about the tissue, as estrogen-producing tumors do sometimes require treatment.
Certain Medications Can Cause Gynecomastia
Many of the medications that produce gynecomastia are not ones you would be giving to a pre-teen or teen male. However, there are certain drugs you should know about that increase breast tissue and actually cause gynecomastia.
- Oral steroids, such as Prednisone, are used for health problems like asthma. Short-term steroid use prescribed by a doctor does not cause gynecomastia.
- Medicines used to treat ulcers can sometimes cause gynecomastia when used for long periods of time.
- Epilepsy medications, such as Dilantin, have been linked to gynecomastia in pre-teen and teen boys.
Symptoms of Gynecomastia
Gynecomastia is usually discovered when a parent or child notices swelling in the breast area. The area has been described as having a rubbery or very firm feel, yet the child does not feel discomfort.
In many cases, adolescent boys don’t notice the onset of gynecomastia or don’t mention it to parents until they feel embarrassed or uncomfortable with their bodies.
A gynecomastia diagnosis from a doctor is usually quick. It requires a physical examination and a look at the child’s medical history. The doctor may focus on certain medications as the cause.
If the breast tissue is unusually large, is focused only on one side, or is tender or very hard, a biopsy may be necessary to determine if there could be a tumor or breast cancer.
Unless your child is taking a specific medication known to cause gynecomastia, not much can be done. Gynecomastia typically goes away on its own, so doctors do not generally advise surgical intervention – at least when a child is in their early teens.
In a small number of cases, gynecomastia that is caused by a lack of testosterone and an increase of estrogen is able to be treated with hormone therapy.
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Gynecomastia often feels like a serious problem to an adolescent male. After all, they may feel that they look different than their peers or that their bodies are not developing the right way.
While is it important to have gynecomastia evaluated by a doctor, it is also important to let your child know that it may be a normal part of their growth. Almost all adolescent males do grow out of it – within two years at the most.Read More