For many men, no amount of bench presses or kale shakes is going to deliver the broad, flat chest that they desire. They have what’s called gynecomastia, a condition that produces excess breast tissue and/or fat in the chest. Often referred to as “man boobs”, it is incredibly common. About 70% of boys in early to mid puberty and 65% of middle age men exhibit some degree of gynecomastia. While not physically harmful, for the most part, it can cause severe emotional distress. Many sufferers complain about not feeling comfortable in their skin. They often won’t wear certain items of clothing like polo shirts or participate in activities like going to the lake.
Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Bruce Van Natta is a leader in the field of breast surgery for both men and women. He is also someone who has had personal experience with gynecomastia. He got a male breast reduction in his mid-20’s, and it is one of the best things that he has ever done for himself. He distinctly remembers how self-conscious he used to feel about taking off his shirt to go swimming or to play “shirts and skins” basketball as a kid. There is no reason to live your life with gynecomastia. The surgery is straightforward and incredibly effective in the hands of a skilled plastic surgeon.
Gynecomastia may be the result of a hormonal imbalance. All men have testosterone and estrogen. But sometimes, a man’s estrogen level will climb too high and produce excess breast tissue. There are really 3 key onset times for gynecomastia:
- Infancy: Normally, this will resolve on its own within 2-3 weeks of birth.
- Puberty: Fluctuating hormone levels can lead to swollen breast tissue, but it will usually disappear on its own within 6 months to 2 years.
- Middle Age: As many as 1 in 4 men between the ages of 50 – 69 will be affected by gynecomastia.
There are any number of things that may cause your estrogen levels to rise such as:
- alcohol and street drugs like marijuana
- prescription drugs such as steroids and certain heart medications
- health conditions like aging, hyperthyroidism & kidney failure
Gynecomastia vs. Pseudogynecomastia
If you have perused the internet, you have probably seen the term “pseudogynecomastia”. It’s a bit of misnomer. Gynecomastia results from excessive breast tissue. It’s a little known fact that all men have breast tissue. You simply have less of it than women unless your hormones get out of whack. Pseudogynecomastia, on the other hand, results from excessive fat. Many overweight men develop pseudogynecomastia. The condition may be magnified by a man’s genetic predisposition to have more fat cells in the chest area.
With patients who are overweight and whose gynecomastia is solely the result of excess fat, Dr. Van Natta will first suggest a healthful eating regime to take off the extra pounds. In many cases, this will cause the gynecomastia to resolve on its own. Regardless if this applies to you or not, it’s ideal for any surgical patient to be within 10 pounds of a maintainable goal weight before surgery. This goes a long way towards ensuring a great, long-lasting outcome.
Dr. Van Natta’s goal with any surgical procedure is to deliver the best possible outcome for you. This starts with a gynecomastia consultation in his Indianapolis office in which he will listen carefully to what bothers you about your body contour. He will then perform a detailed physical exam in order to determine your degree of gynecomastia.
While every procedure is individualized to the patient’s anatomy, goals and lifestyle, Dr. Van Natta will usually remove the excess breast tissue through a combination of liposuction and direct surgical excision of the mammary gland itself. The former is accomplished through a small stab incision at the edge of the armpit while the latter involves a slightly larger incision along the edge of the areola. This is the pigmented skin around the nipple. While all scars on the breast tend to heal well, the gynecomastia scar is particularly well hidden in the transition from your lighter colored skin to your darker colored nipple.
Recovery from Gynecomastia Surgery
Male breast reduction surgery is done as an outpatient procedure under general anesthesia in our accredited surgery center. Although you will probably be sore for the first 4-7 days, there isn’t really a lot of post-operative pain. You can expect to be bruised and swollen for the first couple of weeks, but gynecomastia recovery is more uncomfortable than painful. Dr. Van Natta likes his gynecomastia patients to wear a compression vest for a few days before switching to a tight-fitting shirt such as those made by Under Armour. This really helps to reduce the swelling and speed along your recovery.
Most men are back to their normal activities such as driving and light exercise within a few days, and more vigorous aerobic exercise within 3-4 weeks. For upper-body work, Dr. Van Natta recommends waiting 6 weeks until your chest is completely healed. While it may take anywhere from 3-6 months for your swelling to completely resolve, you will notice an improvement in your body contour almost immediately. So, go on and bring that bathing suit out of hiding.
To find out more about gynecomastia and the male breast reduction with Dr. Bruce Van Natta at Meridian Plastic Surgeons in Indianapolis, contact us today or call (317) 575-0330 to schedule a consultation.