One of the most troubling physical conditions men can have include gynecomastia. What makes it especially troubling is that not everyone knows how to differentiate between normal chest fat and gynecomastia. At a quick glance, there really isn’t much of a difference between the two in terms of appearance;  however, a little bit of research can help you tell the two apart as well as guide you on how to get rid of either.

What is Gynecomastia?

 

Gynecomastia is also known as man-boobs in layman’s terms. It occurs when there is an overgrowth of male breast tissue, giving the appearance of breasts.

Gynecomastia may also occur as a result of weight gain or obesity, so it is naturally difficult to differentiate between gynecomastia and chest fat from a layman’s perspective. The accumulation of fat in the chest region because of obesity or generalized weight gain is referred to as pseudo gynecomastia. This condition can occur at any age but is more common in middle-age and older males. Conversely, gynecomastia can occur in men of all ages after they go through puberty, however, it is most commonly seen in late adolescence and adulthood.

The condition of pseudo gynecomastia can be managed with a healthy lifestyle, exercise, and healthy weight loss. However, the same cannot be said for  gynecomastia proper. Keep in mind, it is possible to have both conditions in the same clinical setting and is actually a fairly common occurence. In these cases, the treatment entails removal of the male breast tissue followed by Vaser-assisted liposuction of the chest region to remove excess fat and contour the chest to create a more proportionate and youthful aesthetic.

How does gynecomastia develop?

There are several factors that can lead to the development of gynecomastia, with the common denominator being a hormonal imbalance which an inadvertent elevation in estrogen levels. When estrogen levels in a man climb to abnormal levels, this can stimulate the growth of breast tissue, giving a man unwanted breasts. The hormonal imbalance can be due to various reasons including liver disease, alcoholism, testicular tumors, medications and illicit drug use, infancy ( breast feeding ), some rare genetic disorders, as well as reasons of unknown origin.

Can obesity lead to gynecomastia?

Obesity is a common cause of gynecomastia in men.  A well understood finding in obese males is an elevation in the enzyme aromatase, which acts to convert testosterone into estradiol, elevating the estrongen levels in the body. The elevated estrogen levels then stimulate the overgrowth of male breast tissue which leads to gynecomastia.

As mentioned above, obese men often times develop pseudogynecomastia or excess fat in their chest region. Pseudogynecomastia may exist on its own or may co-exist with gynecomastia as well. During your examination with Doctor Vallecillos, a determination will be made as to whether you have one or both conditions. 

Why does gynecomastia develop during puberty?

Gynecomastia is common in young males as they enter puberty. Puberty tends to cause large swings in hormone levels in the male body, often times leading to intermittently high levels of estrogen. The estrogen levels in young males will normalize for most over time,  but during the episodes of elevated estrogen, gynecomastia may develop.  Gynecomastia that occurs during puberty usually subsides as the boy grows up, though, and no surgical treatment is necessary.  Once males are out of adolescence, if the gynecomastia has no resolved on its own, a consideration for a surgical correction is made, assuming that all other causes of gynecomastia have been ruled out.

Why does gynecomastia develop in old age?

Another factor that is associated gynecomastia in men is old age. Estrogen levels in relation to testosterone levels tend to be higher in men as they age as testosterone levels naturally drop. Men are also more likely to get more overweight as they grow older too, further increasing the likelihood of developing elevated estrogen levels. Therefore the risk of developing gynecomastia increases accordingly.

How Can You Tell Gynecomastia Apart From Chest Fat?

Undoubtedly, men often get confused between regular fat deposits in the chest region and actual gynecomastia, not only because both conditions are visually very similar, but also because a lot of the factors that can cause the two conditions may coincide.

There are certain ways to tell between gynecomastia and pseudogynecomastia:

  • Gynecomastia is defined as the development of excessive glandular breast tissue growth in the pectoral region of a male.  
  • Pseudogynecomastia is defined as fatty deposits in the pectoral region of a male as a consequence of obesity and/or excessive weight gain.
  • With gynecomastia, a hard lump can be palpated or felt under the nipple/areola region.  The lump typically is firmer than fat. This is one of the best ways to tell it apart from pseudogynecomastia. This lump may also be painful or sensitive to the touch. Feeling for this lump can often tell you which one of the two conditions you have. For people with only chest fat or pseudogynecomastia, there is no palpable firmness or mass that can be felt. Rather, the fat is soft to the touch and feels the same throughout the entire chest region. 
  • Pseudogynecomastia may give the male breast a more saggy appearance while in gynecomastia, the chest may appear firmer. 
  • Normal chest fat can go away if you keep your diet healthy and exercise regularly. However, gynecomastia does not go away with a change in diet and regular exercise, and it can only be reduced with surgical procedures, assuming again, that all medical treatment options have been explored without success. 

How Can I Prevent Gynecomastia?

There is not much you can do to prevent gynecomastia from occurring. Preventable causes of gynecomastia include abstaining from alcohol abuse, anabolic steroids, and drug abuse. Other than that, if you are taking one of the several medications that may incite the development of gynecomastia, you should consult with your primary physician to see if there are alternative medications available.  Often times there are. 

Avoiding gynecomastia during adolescence is difficult.  This is primarily due to the fact that hormone fluctuations occur normally in this age group, and managing hormones is generally not done, as hormone levels normally and gradually normalize in time. 

If you believe your son is suffering from gynecomastia, the best course of action is to take them to their doctor for an evaluation.

How Can I Get Rid of Gynecomastia?

The non-surgical treatments for gynecomastia include removing the inciting factors that may be causing the issue.  This will include drug and alcohol control, abstinence from anabolic steroids, and stopping any medications that may be causing the gynecomastia. If your gynecomastia occurred due to a hormonal imbalance, it should be able to go back to normal once the hormones in the body are stabilized and a good equilibrium is established.

The other treatment of gynecomastia includes surgical intervention. Gynecomastia can be removed from the chest by making small incisions around the areola which are used to access the gynecomastia and carefully excise it. Gynecomastia surgery generally offers a permanent solution to the problem. 

How Can I Get Rid of Chest Fat or Pseudogynecomastia?

There are several options for getting rid of chest fat, the first and foremost is maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen. However, even under  ideal circumstances, chest fat may remain.  In these cases, the chest fat is typically removed with Vaser-assisted lipoplasty or liposuction, which has the added benefit of allowing for contouring of the chest, creating a more youthful aesthetic.  As mentioned before, it is possible to have both gynecomastia and pseudogynecomastia. In these cases, the gynecomastia is typically removed, and then the lipoplasty is perform to remove excess chest fat and correct and depressions left as a consequence of removing the gynecomastia.

Conclusion

Both gynecomastia and pseudogynecomastia may look very similar in the male chest. They are often a source of embarrassment and low self-esteem in men.  However, neither of the two problems is untreatable. Call the offices of Doctor Vallecillos or fill out our contact form to receive a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan if you think you are suffering from gynecomastia or pseudogynecomastia.

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