Gynecomastia: What Causes Puffy Nipples and How to Treat It

The overdevelopment of breast tissue and puffy nipples can cause males to feel uncomfortable. Read on to learn why gynecomastia occurs.

May 2, 2022

4 min read

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Did you know that gynecomastia is extremely common? We see it in 60-90 percent of neonates, 50-60 percent of adolescents, and up to 70 percent of 50-69-year-olds.

Puffy nipples, man boobs, moobs, or gynecomastia: no matter what you call it, it’s all the same. It’s a hormonal imbalance that’s led to the formation of bigger glandular breast tissue which creates the appearance of areolas in men. 

If you believe you may have breast tissue consistent with gynecomastia symptoms, keep reading. We’re going to share everything you need to know about the condition and how to treat gynecomastia.

What Causes Gynecomastia?

No matter how abnormal it may look, gynecomastia is normal. In fact, it’s so common that many men don’t realize that they have breast tissue changes that are inconsistent with typical male breasts.

Many males develop gynecomastia during puberty. The natural changes in estrogen that pubescent men undergo cause them to develop short-term gynecomastia.

Newborn babies may also develop a similar kind of gynecomastia. When these males exit the womb, they still have some of their mother’s estrogen in their blood. However, their breasts should go back to normal.

Middle-aged men develop the condition, too. Some men have shifts in hormone levels that cause gynecomastia during the aging process. Others develop the condition due to taking certain medications.

Here are some of the medications associated with gynecomastia:

  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-anxiety drugs
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Chemotherapy
  • Heart medications
  • AIDS treatment
  • Heartburn treatments

Other drugs such as heroin, amphetamines, and steroids can cause gynecomastia as well. And, too much alcohol causes the same reaction.

If you’re taking any herbal remedies, they may also be a cause for concern. Tea tree oil and lavender oil can increase breast size. Both remedies have natural estrogen that can cause hormonal imbalances in users.

Lastly, gynecomastia can develop as a result of a health problem. Patients may have an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), kidney disease, or a hormonal tumor.

What Are Gynecomastia Symptoms?

Men with gynecomastia have a firm, rubbery mass underneath the areas around the nipples (the areolas). Pressing on this area may cause some tenderness even if you’re pressing lightly.

Some patients experience fluid discharge around or on their puffy nipples. This build-up of fluid may also lend to the appearance of man boobs.

Patients may have gynecomastia in one or both breasts.

How Do I Get a Diagnosis for Gynecomastia?

If you think that you may have gynecomastia, you should talk to a physician. They may not be able to pinpoint the exact cause of your gynecomastia, but they can help you treat it.

When you make an appointment with your primary care physician or endocrinologist, they’re going to ask you a series of questions about your experience with gynecomastia:

  • How long have you had these changes?/How old were you when these changes started?
  • Do these changes run in your family?
  • Have you noticed puffy nipples or a larger areola size?
  • Have you had any fluid discharge or pain/tenderness?
  • Do you have any other health problems that you know about?
  • Do you drink alcohol or do drugs?

These, along with other questions, can help them learn more about your particular condition.

Your physician may also get some blood tests to look at your hormone levels.

They may also want to rule out some causes of gynecomastia, such as hyperthyroidism or cancer. It’s unlikely for breast cancer to cause gynecomastia, but you may be due for a mammogram or biopsy if your physician feels a tumor. 

What Are the Risk Factors for Gynecomastia?

Risk factors make it more likely that you’re going to develop a particular condition. The risk factors for gynecomastia include the following:

  • Adolescence
  • Older age
  • Using anabolic steroids
  • Health conditions, such as liver and kidney disease, thyroid disease, hormonal tumors, and Klinefelter syndrome

On top of these personal factors, you should consider your family history. If there are other males in your family with gynecomastia, you’re at an increased risk for developing it as well.

How Can I Prevent Gynecomastia? 

There isn’t much you can do to prevent hormonal imbalance in your body. But, you can control some external factors that can lead to the development of gynecomastia.

Your physician may recommend that you stop drinking alcohol or using drugs if you currently are. These changes can help stop the progress of or even reverse the development of puffy nipples.

If you have other risk factors for the condition, your physician may want to get these under control as well. Once you’ve improved your health, you may be eligible to try different treatments for your man boobs.

How Can I Treat Gynecomastia?

In most cases, gynecomastia doesn’t need treatment. However, a lot of male patients choose to get their puffy nipples under control for cosmetic reasons.

If you’re thinking about getting your man boobs reduced, you should start talking to a plastic surgeon. They can help you determine whether a procedure is the best way to get your condition under control.

Most cases of gynecomastia subside after hormonal shifts return to normal. However, some patients experience chronic gynecomastia that doesn’t go away with time. 

These patients may benefit from various gynecomastia treatments. Depending on your glandular breast tissue, your plastic surgeon may decide to perform one of these:

  • Coolsculpting
  • Liposuction
  • Excision
  • Male breast reduction

As you can see, there are more options than surgery. So, you don’t have to go under the knife to get your man boobs under control. 

If you’re feeling uneasy about gynecomastia treatment, talk to your physician about the procedures you’d be comfortable with. They can help you find the right treatment regimen for you.

Treat Gynecomastia With AI Plastic Surgery

If there’s anything you should take away, it’s that gynecomastia is common. You’re not alone in this.

But, many patients struggle with emotional and physical problems because of their puffy nipples. They may not wear what they want to wear or do what they want to do.

If you’re experiencing problems because of your gynecomastia, contact our team at AI Plastic Surgery. We have plastic surgeons at both our Temecula and Redland’s offices who are experts on treating gynecomastia.

For more information, read our in-depth guide to gynecomastia. And if you’re worried what others may think if you get surgery, you’ll want to read our post on plastic surgery stigmas.

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