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Gynecomastia (Benign Type)

What is gynecomastia?

Gynecomastia is a condition that often occurs in boys during puberty. During this time a boy's breasts may begin to take on female breast characteristics. He may notice that his breast is tender and that a small area of breast tissue can be felt beneath his nipple. Usually this change is mild and the breast still looks like a male breast. Occasionally the breast can become more like a female breast.

What is the cause?

Gynecomastia is thought to be caused by an imbalance of hormones in boys during the middle part of puberty. Oils and ointments applied to the skin that contain estrogens (female hormones) can also cause gynecomastia. These oils include tea tree oil and lavender oil.

Some medicines may cause enlargement of the male breast. Some examples are digitalis, phenytoin, ketoconazole, cimetidine, diazepam, omeprazole, antidepressants, and others. Tell your doctor about any medicines or supplements your son is taking.

How is it diagnosed?

Gynecomastia is diagnosed in a boy who has entered puberty and has no other medical conditions or symptoms that suggest a reason for the breast to develop.

How long will it last?

In most cases the tenderness lasts for a few months and then goes away. The breast tissue eventually decreases in size. It is unusual for the condition to last longer than 2 years. It is rare for this condition to reach the point where your son is embarrassed about the amount of breast growth.

How can I help take care of my child?

No specific treatment is needed. Loose clothing may be more comfortable than more tightly fitting shirts.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

Call your child's provider during office hours if:

  • Gynecomastia is causing emotional problems.
  • Discharge from the breast occurs.
  • You have other concerns about your child's progression through puberty.
Written by Robert Brayden, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-01-09
Last reviewed: 2009-10-26
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
2010 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All Rights Reserved.
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