Gynecomastia is a physical condition which only affects biological males. It is characterized by a puffy, soft-appearing chest which resembles breasts. Though gynecomastia is not dangerous, many patients experience psychological distress, gender dysphoria, body dysmorphia, or bullying as a result of their condition. These can impact one’s mental health, and sometimes lead patients to research ways to treat their gynecomastia symptoms.
While researching treatment options, many men wonder, “can gynecomastia go away with exercise or healthy eating?” After all, hitting the gym and cooking nourishing meals are generally thought to be the fastest ways to a trim physique. However, because gynecomastia is the result of excessive glandular and stromal tissue rather than actual fat, this answer is less straightforward than one might imagine.
Dr. Lapuerta has been working with gynecomastia patients for years — and we’re happy to share our knowledge of the condition with you. Read on to learn more about working out with gynecomastia, and how to most effectively treat the condition.
Can you Get Rid of Gynecomastia by Working Out?
Can gynecomastia go away with exercise? Unfortunately, not really. Although patients will find plenty of health benefits from lifestyle changes like working out or eating well, a change in gynecomastia symptoms won’t be one of them. This is because the root cause of gynecomastia isn’t related to one’s weight at all — rather, it is usually brought on by hormones. This is the key difference between gynecomastia and a similar condition called pseudogynecomastia. While the former is caused by a number of factors, from hormones to certain medical conditions, the sole cause of pseudogynecomastia is obesity.
Many patients don’t know whether they have gynecomastia or pseudogynecomastia, and without that information, it’s less clear how to treat their condition. Though the primary symptom of both conditions is the outward appearance of breasts, there are key ways to differentiate between the two.
Gynecomastia Symptoms Include:
- The physical appearance of breasts
- Swollen or puffy nipples
- Tender or painful-to-touch areola
- Sensitivity in nipples
- A firm-feeling mound or disc of glandular tissue in the chest — the patient will generally be able to feel this
- Sometimes, the presence of soft, fatty tissue beneath the chest — in cases of mixed gynecomastia
Pseudogynecomastia Symptoms Include:
- A bilateral breast-like appearance to chest
- Only fatty tissue under the chest, with nothing firm to the touch
Are There Ways to Avoid Gynecomastia?
Although weight gain or low activity levels aren’t the culprits for gynecomastia, the condition has a number of causes — some of which can indicate a more serious health problem. Some can be avoided, while others are simply medical or genetic. The most common causes of gynecomastia are:
- Medication: Quite a few types of medications can lead to gynecomastia, especially those made with high levels of estrogen. Certain medications for heart problems, ulcers, and prostate issues, as well as antidepressants and steroids, are all linked to gynecomastia. Some antibiotics can also cause symptoms.
- Substance Abuse: Excessive consumption of alcohol has been named as a cause for gynecomastia, as has the use of certain narcotics such as cannabis and heroin.
- Liver Problems: Gynecomastia is sometimes brought on by cirrhosis of the liver, a condition frequently caused by excessive drinking.
- Kidney Failure: In some (rare) cases, gynecomastia is a symptom of kidney failure. This is a very serious condition. Patients presenting symptoms of kidney failure must seek medical help immediately.
- Testicular Issues: Though it’s uncommon, gynecomastia can sometimes point to larger issues of the testicals, including infection or cancer. If a patient notices testicular failure symptoms on top of gynecomastia, seek medical attention.
- Klinefelter Syndrome: Sometimes, gynecomastia is present in men who have Klinefelter Syndrome, a rare condition where patients have an extra X-chromosome.
Once the patient has a clear understanding of whether they have gynecomastia or pseudogynecomastia, they can consider their options for treatment.
For those looking to treat pseudogynecomastia, we recommend trying a new fitness routine and shifting towards a more nutritious diet. Most often, this proves to be the most effective way to treat pseudogynecomastia. Once at their goal body weight, if the patient still has enlarged breasts, they might discover they actually have gynecomastia. At this point, they could consider other treatment options.
For patients with gynecomastia, there are two primary choices for treating their condition:
Gynecomastia surgery is minimally-invasive, and generally performed in a single operation. Typically, this procedure involves the surgical removal of tissue and fat from the chest. There are two primary types of surgical techniques when treating gynecomastia; which one a patient receives will depend on the severity of their case.
In milder forms of gynecomastia, a surgeon will make an incision around the areola before performing liposuction. With more pronounced gynecomastia cases, the procedure involves an incision along the lower border of the areola, and the surgical removal of tissue. With both procedures, the incisions are closed with sutures.
In some cases, gynecomastia can be effectively treated through medication. However, many of the medications used have been FDA-approved to treat breast cancer rather than gynecomastia.
Some gynecomastia patients also find success through hormone treatments. Patches, injections, and topical gels are all common ways of treating the low testosterone levels which sometimes cause gynecomastia.
Working out With Gynecomastia and Pseudogynecomastia
Working out is always a great choice — and it’s the ideal way to banish pseudogynecomastia. However, for those with “true gynecomastia,” surgery or medication are going to be the best options for an effective treatment. That being said, most plastic surgeons recommend that gynecomastia patients do try and lose some weight before their surgery. Working out with gynecomastia can be both a great way to both accomplish pre-surgery goals, and get into good habits for life post-recovery.
When to Get Gynecomastia Surgery
The decision to have gynecomastia surgery is a personal one. Though anybody with gynecomastia can be a great surgery candidate, it is important to consider timing and personal health before any procedure. The best gynecomastia surgery patients are healthy, already at their “goal weight,” and with breasts that are no longer growing.
As gynecomastia is frequently seen in teenage boys, we are often asked if they are good candidates for surgery. Although teenagers do sometimes undergo this procedure, revisions or additional treatment might be required if they continue to develop down the road.
Prior to gynecomastia surgery, patients will visit their surgeon and undergo an examination. This will include a breast exam, and in some cases, a biopsy or ultrasound. This is in order to rule out any possibility of breast cancer, which can sometimes occur in men. Once the patient has been diagnosed with gynecomastia and cleared as healthy for surgery, a procedural plan will be made.
Hitting the Gym After Gynecomastia Surgery: When Can I Work Out?
So, can gynecomastia go away with exercise? No. Does that mean that gynecomastia patients shouldn’t work out? Of course not. Exercise and staying fit is always a good idea. However, following surgery it’s best to wait a while before hitting the gym — recovery from gynecomastia surgery takes about six weeks.
Recovery from gynecomastia surgery is fairly straightforward, and isn’t very painful. Post-op patients will receive pain medication, as well as compression garments, which they are expected to wear for around six weeks or until swelling subsides. Two weeks following surgery, the patient will visit their surgeon for a check-up and to remove their sutures. Most patients will have already resumed going to work by this time.
In terms of hitting the gym after gynecomastia surgery, we advise patients to wait. Although light activities (like going to work or doing errands) are alright, we do not recommend any strenuous activity for the first six weeks after this procedure. Around this six week mark, most patients are healed well enough to start working out again — and feel comfortable going shirtless in the locker rooms afterwards! However, results can take up to six months to fully settle.
Book Your Gynecomastia Surgery Today
Dr. Leo Lapuerta has been serving the Southeast Texas community’s plastic surgery needs for over 20 years. Gynecomastia patients can rest assured they are in experienced hands with our team.
Get in touch today for a consultation with Dr. Lapuerta about your potential gynecomastia surgery today. We can’t wait to meet you and help you meet your goals.