Low testosterone (Low T) levels in men is the enlargement of the breast or also a condition called gynecomastia. However, testosterone is the hormone that happens naturally in men.
Sometimes it’s seen to be responsible for male physical features and also affects a man’s sex drive and mood. When there’s an imbalance of the body’s hormones in men, including testosterone, gynecomastia can develop.
Both low testosterone and gynecomastia are often treatable. It’s essential to first understand the underlying causes of each condition.
What you need to know about gynecomastia
The male body creates both testosterone and estrogen, although estrogen is usually found at low levels. If a man’s testosterone levels are very low in comparison to estrogen, or if there is an extra estrogen activity relative to testosterone, larger breasts may develop.
When boys hit puberty and there’s a notable change in hormonal activity in the body, gynecomastia may develop. Nevertheless, it may fix itself with time and without treatment. The excess of breast tissue may be equal in both breasts, or there may be more in one breast than the other.
As testosterone levels drop in older men, gynecomastia may occur and persist unless it’s treated. Gynecomastia affects about 1 in 4 men between the ages of 50 and 80, according to the Mayo Clinic. The condition normally isn’t harmful or serious.
What you need to know about Low T
Testosterone levels usually decline as men age. It is called hypogonadism, or “low T.” According to the Urology Care Foundation, 1 in 4 men over the age of 45 have low T. Producing low testosterone levels can start to several complications:
- reduced libido
- low sperm count
- erectile dysfunction (ED)
- enlarged male breasts, called gynecomastia
Causes of low T and gynecomastia
Low T is usually simply the result of aging. Health conditions can also be the cause. Speak to your doctor about whether your low T might be the result of an underlying condition, such as:
- an accident
- inflammation (swelling)
- testicular cancer
- cancer treatment, including radiation and chemotherapy
- damage to cells in the testes that produce testosterone
- diseases that affect parts of the brain, such as the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland
A category of treatments is available for both gynecomastia and low T.
Gynecomastia may be treated with medications such as raloxifene (Evista) and tamoxifen (Soltamox).
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended these medications to treat breast cancer, but not gynecomastia.
The use of drugs to treat a condition for which they are not FDA-approved is known as “off-label” use. Off-label treatments may be safe.
But you should talk about the use of these medications with your doctor before starting treatment. There are surgical options, too. You may have heard about liposuction, which removes excess fat from the belly.
It can be used to remove fat in the breasts, too. Liposuction doesn’t affect the breast gland, however. A mastectomy is the surgical removal of breast gland tissue.
It can be done with a small incision and a relatively short recovery period. These treatments may include corrective or cosmetic surgery to provide you the shape and look you want.
In addition to treating gynecomastia, you may want to treat low T. Testosterone levels in men tend to decline with age. That’s why many older men try testosterone replacement therapy. Treatments are available in a variety of forms:
- skin gels
Men who receive testosterone replacement therapy usually have noticeable results. They often experience improvement in:
- sex drive
- muscle mass
They may also see a positive change in their outlook and mood. In men who have low T, treatment with testosterone replacement therapy can resolve gynecomastia.
Side effects of treatment
There are likely side effects of testosterone replacement therapy. Men who may have breast cancer or prostate cancer should not undergo testosterone replacement therapy.
There has been some controversy about whether the treatment may increase the risk of developing prostate cancer. In addition, it may increase your risk for cardiovascular events, obstructive sleep apnea, and excess red blood cell production.