Do I have gynecomastia?
'I don't know if I have gynecomastia. Maybe it is fat. So, I came.'
I hear this often in my practice. Gynecomastia is male breast enlargement. It can be diagnosed easily because of its appearance. But sometimes, the presentation can be a bit confusing.
The breast tissue is seen under the nipple and areola. The areola is the pigmented skin immediately surrounding the nipple. Depending on the severity of enlargement, gynecomastia can present as puffiness of the nipple and areola, or it can extend towards the sides of the chest. It can affect one side or both sides. Both sides can look different. In other words, there can be asymmetry.
The word, ‘gynecomastia’ comes from ‘gyneco’ and 'mastia'. 'Gyneco' means female, and ‘mastia’ means breast. Thus gynecomastia translates into the female-looking breast. This occurs due to an enlargement of the breast tissue. Compared to female breasts, male breasts are positioned more laterally (meaning to the side of the chest). Hence, the deformity of gynecomastia is also especially pronounced when viewed from the side.
Hypertrophy of the underlying muscle (pectoralis major) looks different from that of the breast. The muscle animates (moves) in certain maneuvers. This means the muscle contracts during certain activities like flexing the arm against resistance. Also, the lower border of the muscle usually stops at the level of the nipple. Any enlargement that significantly extends below the level of the areola is usually due to breast tissue. The lower border of the muscle is straight or flat. This is easily made out in men who perform weight training. The presence of breast tissue tends to make the inferior border curved. The curved lower part of the breast gives it a feminine appearance.
It is also possible to pinch the breast tissue separately from the underlying tissues. We usually carry this out during a clinical examination of an individual presenting with gynecomastia. Puffiness of the nipple and areola is also associated with enlargement of the breast tissue. It is not associated with hypertrophy of the underlying muscle.
There is an entity called pseudogynecomastia. ‘Pseudo’ means false. This is due to increased fat deposits in the chest. There is no glandular enlargement in pseudogynecomastia. It is usually seen in the setting of obesity with fat deposits that mimic the appearance of male breast enlargement. Losing weight will lead to an improvement in the deformity associated with pseudogynecomastia.
It is usually simple to diagnose a case of gynecomastia during a clinical examination. We sometimes request additional investigations to look for any underlying cause for gynecomastia. Imaging can help us to confirm the condition. Most cases of gynecomastia are benign and are self-limiting. Surgery is undertaken when gynecomastia results in significant distress in the affected individual.
To learn more about gynecomastia, please visit, https://www.amicusclinic.in/gynecomastia
I like to keep it simple.