Gynecomastia or gyno is the word used by doctors to describe man boobs. It happens when the breast tissue, which is found in all men, enlarges so that it can be seen and felt, causing breasts to form.

As this is not usual in men, it has a medical term – gynecomastia.

All breast tissue responds to hormone levels. In most men most of the time, the level of the ‘male’ hormone testosterone is much higher than the level of the ‘female’ hormone estrogen. This balance means that breast tissue does not grow and most men are not even aware that it’s there.

If anything changes the balance of these hormones (so either testosterone falls or estrogen rises) this can send a message to the breast tissue telling it to grow. As the breast tissue grows it becomes obvious and forms gynecomastia.

Mild gynecomastia is when the breast swelling is relatively small and found just behind the nipple. This is the usually the first stage that the man notices.

For many men, their gynecomastia will stop here and never get any bigger. For some men, the breast tissue continues to enlarge and the condition progresses.

Mild gynecomastia can be seen, as it makes the breast area jut out from the chest wall, and sometimes makes the nipple more prominent. The swelling can also often be felt as a firm or rubbery smooth disc.


Causes of mild gynecomastia

The most common time for a man to experience gynecomastia is during puberty – when up to 70% of teenagers have some degree of breast enlargement.

During puberty there is a huge surge in all types of hormones, meaning that the relative balance of estrogen and testosterone can change. Often, this is enough to cause a young man’s breasts to grow a little and cause gynecomastia.

Gynecomastia is also common in male babies, who are exposed to high levels of their mother’s estrogen, and in older men who naturally experience a slight fall in testosterone levels.

Some other causes of gynecomastia are:

  • Side-effects of prescribed medications such as stomach ulcer drugs or some anxiety medications
  • Recreational drug use including marijuana and anabolic steroids
  • Rarely from certain foods containing high levels of soy protein
  • Due to disease of the liver or kidneys
  • Rare genetic disorders
  • Hormone-producing tumours

All types of gynecomastia are much more common in men who are overweight or obese. There are two reasons for this:

  1. Firstly, the breast swelling may in fact be fatty tissue rather than true enlargement of the breast. This is because fat can build up on the chest wall, just as it can anywhere else on the body. It’s often very difficult to tell the difference between fatty tissue and true gyno from the appearance alone.
  2. Secondly, fat in the body encourages more estrogen to be produced. If there is a lot of fat, the body makes more estrogen which can cause the breast tissue to get bigger.

Mild gynecomastia symptoms

  • Itching of the nipple or underarm
  • Prominence or jutting of the nipple
  • Swelling behind the nipple – may be seen and felt
  • Aching or tenderness of the breast
  • Occasional fluid discharge from the nipple

Gynecomastia often has no symptoms – particularly when it is mild. Some men describe an itching of the nipple area, or occasionally under the arm, which may occur before any swelling is seen.

The first thing that many men notice is that the nipple becomes more prominent or juts out from the chest wall. This is followed by increased swelling behind the nipple itself and the surrounding area called the areola.

Pain is not usually reported with gynecomastia, although enlarging breast tissue can ache or be a little tender to the touch.

The swelling is usually on both sides, or bilateral – although it can often start on one side first. Very occasionally in mild gynecomastia there can be some discharge from the nipple, but this is unusual.

Mild gynecomastia treatment

For most men, although gynecomastia can be both embarrassing and distressing, it is not medically worrying. Particularly when it is mild, gynecomastia will often go away on its own and does not need any specific treatment.

During puberty, time and observation are all that is needed. If a man is overweight, diet and exercise are the best treatment, as following a diet will reduce fatty tissue and exercise will help build up muscles in the area and improve the chest’s appearance.

If there might be other reasons for developing gynecomastia or the man is concerned, it is always a good idea to go and talk to a doctor. The doctor will discuss the problem with the man and work out what the cause is. Even if the gynecomastia is mild, a doctor will be happy to talk through the options and see if any treatment is needed.

Many gynecomastia treatments are available on the internet, including dietary supplements, creams and pills. 

Mild gynecomastia surgery

Surgery is often considered the best treatment for gynecomastia. For more severe cases this is often the case, as it produces an immediate result which is long-lasting.

However, surgery is expensive (and not usually covered by health insurance) and always carries some risks. For mild gynecomastia, surgery is not usually recommended. This is because the pain, scars and risks of the procedure are usually more of a problem than the gynecomastia itself.

Occasionally, for a man with bilateral gynecomastia caused mainly by fat – and where simple measures such as diet and exercise have not produced an improvement – liposuction surgery might be recommended, but this is unusual.


Mild gynecomastia is the most common type of gyno. Although it is described as mild and has few symptoms, it can be very embarrassing for men, and they often want to know the best way to get rid of their man boobs.

For men with bilateral mild gynecomastia – especially during puberty – simply time, with exercise and weight loss where needed, will produce the best results. Sometimes discussing the problem with a doctor will help work out if there are worrying causes or if any treatment is needed.

Surgery is rarely needed or recommended for mild gynecomastia, but occasionally liposuction to remove fatty tissue can help.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)

Pin It on Pinterest