Ah, puberty. It can be a very interesting time in a guy's life, what
with all the changes going on. In fact, it seems like every day something
on your body grows bigger or hair begins sprouting somewhere. Each
day brings a new change or two, and it can sometimes feel like it's
hard to keep up.
It doesn't happen to every guy, but one of these changes can be
the development of breast tissue. It's called gynecomastia (pronounced:
guy-nuh-ko-mas-tee-uh) and it's completely normal - and almost always
temporary. So how exactly does a guy happen to develop breast tissue?
What Is Gynecomastia?
Gynecomastia is a condition in which breast tissue forms in guys,
usually due to normal hormonal changes during puberty. Hormones
are chemicals produced by your body's glands. In a guy, hormones
produced in the testicles are responsible for the physical changes
that begin to take place during puberty - facial hair, muscle development,
a deepening of the voice, and the lengthening of the penis, for
example. Guys and girls produce both androgens (hormones that help
develop and maintain male characteristics) and estrogen (a hormone
that is responsible for most female characteristics).
Guys have mostly androgens in their systems, but they also have
small amounts of estrogen. In girls, breast growth is caused by
high levels of estrogen. Normally, when going through puberty, a
guy's production of androgens increases significantly, whereas estrogen
production remains low.
However, sometimes guys produce enough estrogen during puberty
that some breast tissue develops. Breast tissue growth in guys can
appear on one or both sides of the chest, and the breast area can
feel tender. This doesn't mean you're turning into a girl or anything.
It's just a minor change in your hormones as you begin to grow into
It's estimated that about half of all males going through puberty
experience some degree of gynecomastia in one or both breasts. Gynecomastia
is almost always a temporary condition, and it's very unusual for
the breasts to stay developed - they will eventually flatten out
completely within a few months to a couple of years. It usually
goes away on its own and no medical treatment or surgery is needed.
Even though it's just a temporary change for most teens, some guys
with gynecomastia feel embarrassed or self-conscious about their
appearance. Many guys find that wearing loose-fitting shirts helps
make the condition less noticeable until the breast tissue shrinks
over time. Surgical removal of the breast tissue is an option in
some cases. If a guy finds his gynecomastia is bothering him, he
can talk to a doctor about it.
Although the most common cause of gynecomastia is puberty, it can
sometimes be caused by certain diseases or side effects of some
medications. Using illegal drugs such as anabolic steroids, marijuana,
or heroin can also disrupt hormonal balance and lead to gynecomastia.
There's also something called pseudogynecomastia (or false gynecomastia).
This has nothing to do with puberty or hormones. It's just simply
due to the fact that some guys have extra fat in the chest area,
making it look like they have breasts. A doctor's exam can tell
whether a guy has gynecomastia or pseudogynecomastia.
If you're concerned or have any questions about gynecomastia, talk
to your doctor. Keep in mind that temporary breast tissue growth
in guys is a common part of puberty that will usually go away on