"Man boobs" in teenagers -- a condition called gynecomastia -- are surprisingly common. MedlinePlus states that more than 50 percent of pubescent boys develop gynecomastia. The good news is that this condition is almost always temporary. "Man boobs" are vexing to boys who don't understand why they're subjected to this embarrassing condition. Help your child understand the causes of gynecomastia so he can avoid some of the contributing causes.
An influx of male sex hormones called androgens and a female sex hormone called estrogen occur during puberty. According to Medline Plus, fluctuations in these two hormones, or how the body responds to them, can cause gynecomastia. Other things that can cause "man boobs" in teens are steroid use, alcohol and street drugs like marijuana, heroin and amphetamines. Even some topical plant oils used in personal care products can contribute to gynecomastia, namely, tea tree oil and lavender oil.
Tender, swollen breasts are characteristic of gynecomastia. The condition starts with painful lumps under the breasts, which generally develop asymmetrically. There's also an unrelated condition called false gynecomastia, or pseudogynecomastia, which doesn't involve hormones; teenage boys with false gynecomastia have more fat in their chests. A doctor can tell your teen if he has gynecomastia or false gynecomastia.
Teenage boys will be happy to know that "man boobs" turn into a "man chest" in six months to two years. However, during this time, your teen may be the subject of taunts during gym class or sports that require him to wear tight shirts. MayoClinic.com suggests that regardless of age, males with gynecomastia may benefit from counseling to help them better cope with this condition. Preventing gynecomastia may be impossible; however, you can caution your child about the influence that alcohol, street drugs and workout supplements can have on his body.
As mentioned, most cases of gynecomastia resolve with time. Your teen's doctor may want to evaluate him every three to six months to monitor his condition, says MayoClinic.com. Extreme breast development in teenage boys, or gynecomastia that doesn't resolve on its own, may need to be treated using hormone therapy or breast reduction therapy; however, this happens only rarely.