Gynecomastia is an enlargement in a man’s breast tissue, often colloquially known as “man boobs.” While it is incredibly common, most men think that they are the only ones with this embarrassing condition. In truth, about 40 – 60% of the male population experiences some degree of gynecomastia. It tends to peak at three distinct times in a man’s life: infancy, puberty and middle age (over 50).
Despite the fact that so many men suffer from gynecomastia, they often do so in silence. This is unfortunate since gynecomastia is pretty simple to correct. Dr. Theo Nyame of Charlotte, NC discusses the many options, both surgical and non-surgical, for restoring a flat, smooth, natural-looking contour to your chest wall.
What is Gynecomastia?
Gynecomastia is the technical term for an enlargement of the male chest due to excessive amount of breast tissue. Most men don’t realize that they have breast tissue, perhaps believing it to just be an unfortunate fat deposit. An excessive amount of breast tissue often arises in puberty, and usually involves an improper balance of testosterone and estrogen (men and women have both). If their estrogen level becomes too high, a side-effect can be gynecomastia. There are any number of things that can cause hormones to become out of balance such as:
- alcohol and street drugs like marijuana
- prescription drugs such as steroids or certain heart medications
- health conditions like aging, hyperthyroidism or kidney failure
Because hormones are at the root of gynecomastia, there are three peak periods when a man typically develops enlarged breasts:
- infancy – tends to resolve between 2-3 weeks of birth
- puberty – often goes away within 6 months to 2 years
- middle age – about 1 in 4 men over 60 will develop gynecomastia
Gynecomastia is Very Treatable
Gynecomastia can be traumatizing both physically and emotionally for its sufferers. Since the first onset is often during the critical time of puberty, a lot of men experience ridicule and shame from their peers. Most gynecomastia patients won’t wear certain clothes such as golf shirts or participate in activities that require them to take off their tops like going to the beach. As Dr. Nyame explains, the really sad thing is that despite feeling embarrassed by their breasts. “They feel that they may be the only ones with this issue.” The truth is that gynecomastia is all too common.
Thankfully, with the internet and social media, there seems to be a rising awareness that men do not just have to live with gynecomastia. There are surgical and non-surgical solutions that allow men to “restore the natural shape of the chest wall.” Doing so will make you feel more confident so that you can fully embrace life.
Treatment Options for Gynecomastia
“Gynecomastia correction is one of the most interesting procedures in plastic surgery,” shares Dr. Nyame. There are many viable options that can wholly correct a problem that is unfortunately too near, and certainly not dear, to men.
If you think that you may have gynecomastia, it is vital that you be assessed in person by a board certified plastic surgeon with a lot of gynecomastia experience. During your consultation, your surgeon will perform a thorough physical exam to assess whether your gynecomastia is due to:
- excess breast tissue
- excess fat
- or, more likely, a combination of the two
Surgical Male Breast Reduction
In terms of surgical treatment options, there is liposuction and a skin excision. For patients whose enlarged breasts are solely due to excess fat, liposuction can be truly effective. The scars are minimal as is the downtime.
However, if you have excess skin and/or excess breast tissue either alone or in addition to excess fat, then you will need some form of surgical excision to remove this extra tissue and skin. Unless you suffer from severe gynecomastia, where your skin actually hangs down, this excision can be done through an incision around the nipple. Any resultant scar is easily hidden in the line between the pigment of your nipple and the lighter colored skin so that it is not noticeable.
Don’t Fear the Scars
Oftentimes, in an effort to avoid scars, patients seek out a more minimally-invasive procedure, such as liposuction, when what they really need is a skin excision. “I think it’s important to understand that if you have excess skin in combination with fat and you only do the liposuction… then you’re left with excess skin,” explains Dr. Nyame. Additionally, patients will probably need additional corrective surgery down the line. It’s thus important to realize that scars on the breast tend to heal really well. Furthermore, they are placed in areas where they are very will hidden. After gynecomastia surgery, you will be able to take off your shirt, and no one will know that you’ve had surgery unless you decide to tell them.
CoolSculpting – a Great Non-Surgical Option for Gynecomastia
One of the most innovative procedures on the market these days for addressing gynecomastia is CoolSculpting. It’s a non-surgical procedure that freezes the fat in the treatment area. The fat cells eventually die off and are eliminated by your lymphatic system. The pro side of coolsculpting is no downtime, no anesthesia, and non incisions. The downside is that it will take more than one treatment spaced over time to achieve optimum results. Also, it is really only a viable option for those patients who just have a small amount of extra fat and no redundant skin. “I think, over time, we’ll see whether this is a truly functional modality, but I am excited about the possibilities of using CoolSculptingfor gynecomastia corrective surgery” says Dr. Nyame.
If you are unhappy with the look of your chest, don’t ignore it. Talk with a plastic surgeon about the treatment options that are right for your anatomy, needs and lifestyle. You are worth it.