Boys going through puberty can expect growth spurts, facial hair, pubic hair, a deepening voice, an increase in muscle mass, and genital development. They certainly won't be awaiting breast growth!
Yet, "man boobs", as they're colloquially called, are surprisingly common in pre-teen and teen boys, with some data suggesting that up to 69 percent of males aged between 10 and 19 have some extent of breast growth, either on one or on both sides.
Pubertal Gynecomastia: What Causes 'Man Boobs' In Teen Boys?
First off, it is important to differentiate between two kinds of "man boobs" (medically termed gynecomastia):
- Pseudogynecomastia is a phenomenon in which the appearance of female-like breasts in males is caused by fat deposits, due to overweight and obesity. Here, we're talking about "the appearance of breasts" rather than actual breast tissue.
- True gynecomastia involves a proliferation of glandular tissues, that is, "real breasts".
In the former case, attaining a healthy BMI will send the man boobs packing. True gynecomastia, on the other hand, is typically caused by hormonal imbalances, concretely elevated levels of the female hormone estrogen. This can be caused by a wide variety of medical conditions and genetic disorders, and even as the side effect of certain medications.
Research shows that pubertal gynecomastia is almost always a temporary and physiological phenomenon. Though some boys afflicted with pubertal gynecomastia do have increased estrogen levels, most have completely normal hormone function. (This still includes some amount of estrogen, by the way.) It is interesting to note that pubertal "man boobs" tend to be at their worst at the ages of 13 and 14 and then reverse when androgens, male hormones, start circulating.
Do I Need To See A Doctor For My Man Boobs?
Yes, you do. This is important in order to rule out pathological causes of gynecomastia, such as kidney disease and Klinefelter syndrome (a genetic disorder).
Your examination will include a chat about your personal and family medical history, a look at any medications you may be on, an assessment of the stage of puberty you are in, and a close physical examination of the chest area, as well as tests that analyze your general health.
In most cases, the doctor will be able to reassure you that there is nothing medically wrong with you and that your gynecomastia will most likely completely disappear on its own.
But I Want To Get Rid Of My Gynecomastia Now!
Having severe gynecomastia at such a sensitive and formative stage of your life can lead to very real psychological and social issues, and boys who have been told that their gynecomastia is temporary and not caused by a medical problem will almost always still be desperate to make those man boobs disappear — now.
I understand, and so will your doctor. In consultation with your parents, you may first be offered hormone therapy. This hormone therapy can come in three forms:
- Medications that stop estrogen from affecting the chest area.
- Medications that inhibit estrogen production.
- Androgen therapy (an increase of so-called "male hormones")
Should this hormone therapy not work, surgery to remove glandular tissue from the chest is another option.
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