No one wants man boobs, but the good news is that they generally don’t pose a risk to your health and usually go away by themselves. However, if you do have moobs, that might be cold comfort, because it’s a condition that can be embarrassing even if you’re not experiencing any physical discomfort.
To get more info on what you can do about moobs if you do have them, we spoke to Luke Powles, associate clinical director for Bupa UK.
What are man boobs?
Gynaecomastia – often referred to as man boobs or moobs – is a common condition that causes the breast tissue in men to swell and become larger than normal. It can affect one or both sides of the chest and is common in boys going through puberty and older men.
Does it pose a serious risk to your health?
Generally, gynaecomastia isn’t a serious problem, although it can be distressing, isolating and tough to cope with. However, occasionally it can be linked with a more serious, underlying medical problem. If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should visit your GP as soon as you notice them:
- Swelling, pain or tenderness on or around your nipples
- Discharge from your nipples
- Change in appearance to your nipples, for example if they’ve become inverted
- Symptoms in other areas, such as loss of body hair and lumps in other places, including the testicles
If you do notice any lumps over the breast tissue, speak to your doctor because these should be examined as soon as possible. You should also speak to your GP if this condition is causing you distress – they will be able to check what’s causing these symptoms, as well as providing you with the treatment and support you need.
What causes them?
Gynaecomastia is most commonly caused by an imbalance between the hormones oestrogen and testosterone. Oestrogen controls female traits, including breast growth, and testosterone controls male traits, such as body hair and muscle mass. Male oestrogen levels that are too high or are out of balance with testosterone levels can cause gynaecomastia.
Obesity can also cause moobs to develop, because being overweight can increase your levels of oestrogen. As men get older, they produce less testosterone, and these changes in hormone levels can also lead to gynaecomastia. Rarer causes of gynaecomastia include drinking too much alcohol, lumps or an infection in the testicles, and illegal drugs, such as cannabis.
What are the best way to get rid of them?
Usually, no treatment is needed, as most cases of gynaecomastia lessen with time. For some people, removing the cause of the gynaecomastia, such as changing medicines, reducing excess body fat, treating the underlying medical condition – if there is one that is treatable – or reducing alcohol intake, is all that’s needed to shrink the enlarged breast tissue. It’s important to lead a healthy lifestyle, so try eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise and enough sleep. Be aware of how much alcohol you’re drinking, too.
Gynaecomastia can be distressing, embarrassing and isolating, so it can help to talk to friends or family about how you’re feeling – support from those closest to you might help you cope. There are also self-referral counselling services that are free to access if you don’t feel comfortable speaking to those around you. You can speak to your doctor if you’re worried that your mental health is being affected.
It’s important to speak to your GP if you’re worried you have gynaecomastia. They should be able to find out the cause and recommend the right treatment for you. Occasionally, those with gynaecomastia may need to have drug treatments or, very rarely, surgery.
Are there creams and pills that work?
Your doctor may suggest treating your gynaecomastia with medication to adjust your hormone imbalance. However, it’s important to remember that in most cases gynaecomastia diminishes with time without any treatment. If you’re worried that you have gynaecomastia, the first step should be to speak to your GP who should find out what’s causing it and decide what the best treatment is for you.
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Help Making Lifestyle Changes
If you have received a diagnosis of gynaecomastia which is at least partly as a result of causes like excess body fat or drinking too much alcohol, then you can treat the condition through lifestyle changes. No-one’s saying that’s going to be easy, but we have expert advice that can help on this front.
First up, when people try to lose weight they often start with an extreme approach that might produce short-term results but proves impossible to sustain. This guide to losing weight quickly will help to set realistic expectations, as well steering you away from classic pitfalls and towards types of exercise and habits that will contribute to achieving long-term changes.
To help you make changes to your diet, we have a four-week diet plan for men that limits your calorie intake to 1,800 a day. It’s been prepared by a dietitian and ensures you still consume the vital nutrients your body needs.
For more guidance on exercise, try some of these exercise suggestions for weight loss. The good news is that you should start at a low intensity, but it’s important that you aim to exercise regularly.
As for the booze, we have five easy(ish) ways to cut down your alcohol intake to consider, plus a selection of the best non-alcoholic and low-alcohol beers so you can still enjoy a tasty, refreshing drink, but with far fewer calories and less of a negative impact on your sleep.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.