Sometimes called “man boobs”, gynecomastia is a medical condition in which males have excess breast tissue beneath and around their nipples. The condition is relatively common. However, many men don’t realize they have it or don’t know that it’s treatable.
In this article, we’ll be discussing the “gynecomastia pinch test”, which is a simple test that you (or your doctor) can perform to help determine if you have gynecomastia.
How Do I Know if I Have Gyno or Fat?
The first question patients often ask in relation to gynecomastia is whether the excess breast tissue they have is really gynecomastia (“gyno”) or simply fat.
When a patient simply has fat on their chest and does not have firm glandular tissue beneath their nipples — an indicator of gynecomastia — this is often called pseudogynecomastia or fatty gynecomastia.
Pseudogynecomastia is simply the presence of excess adipose tissue (fat) on the chest. It may be caused by normal hormonal changes (in newborns or young men going through puberty, for example). Or, it is sometimes related to having excess body weight overall and a higher body mass index (BMI).
To know if you have glandular gynecomastia or fatty gynecomastia, we recommend performing the gynecomastia pinch test, which we will outline below. First, however, let’s briefly discuss what causes excess breast tissue in males.
What Causes Excess Breast Tissue in Males?
Gynecomastia in any form is generally caused by hormonal changes — in particular, lower than average testosterone.
This can occur in newborns or males going through puberty. It can also be caused by medical conditions related to the thyroid, liver, or kidneys. Certain patients who take medications for anxiety, depression, infertility, high blood pressure, or other issues may also develop gynecomastia.
Finally, drugs and substances such as anabolic steroids, opioids, marijuana, and alcohol may be related to the development of excess breast tissue.
How Can I Check Myself for Gynecomastia?
The best way to check yourself for gynecomastia is to perform a pinch test, but you can also start with a visual test by simply looking at yourself in the mirror without a shirt on.
Gynecomastia causes the male breasts to get larger, sometimes uniformly and sometimes unevenly. If you notice that your breasts appear larger than usual, this is one indicator that you may have gynecomastia.
Keep in mind, however, that if you are currently a young man going through puberty, gynecomastia is usually a normal symptom of this stage of life. In fact, the buildup of excess adipose tissue in the chest is related to hormonal changes for many young men.
In most cases, the excess fat will go away as the individual gets older, and treatment will not be required. At the same time, some teenage boys may decide to start eating cleaner and exercising more to improve their health and physique. This can be an effective way to reduce fat in the chest area as well.
What Is the Gynecomastia Pinch Test?
The gynecomastia pinch test is the term sometimes used for an at-home test that can help patients deduce whether they have gynecomastia. It involves lightly palpating the area surrounding and beneath the nipple.
How Does Gynecomastia Feel?
When palpating the breast with the pinch test for gynecomastia, the area may feel tender and uncomfortable, though not always. You will likely feel some squishy fat, but you may also feel a firm lump, usually located directly beneath the nipple.
The lump may be present on one or both breasts. Often, it feels like a firm disc that radiates out in small concentric circles beneath the nipple. Each lump may be around the size of a button and is usually mobile to a degree.
Is Gynecomastia Painful to Touch?
It may be. Sometimes, patients with gynecomastia note tenderness or discomfort surrounding the nipples — especially when the area is touched.
How to Perform the Pinch Test for Gynecomastia
Gynecomastia Pinch Test Steps
Take these steps to perform the pinch test on your own at home. Your doctor may also perform this test in-office.
Remember that only a certified medical professional can officially diagnose gynecomastia, but this test can give you a place to start.
- Begin by standing in front of a mirror without a shirt on, and in good light.
- You’re next going to palpate the nipple area. Using your thumb and forefinger, gently pinch the nipple, lightly feeling your way around the entire areola.
- Finally, feel for a firm lump or disc-shaped mass around the size of a button. Most likely, you’ll feel this directly below the nipple, though it may sometimes be located off-center.
Rarely, gynecomastia patients may also experience itchiness around the nipple or the secretion of bloody discharge or fluid from the nipple. Some patients notice changes in sex drive and mood as well.
These symptoms may primarily stem from an underlying medical condition, which if treated effectively, can often correct all symptoms. For this reason, it is important to investigate any possible underlying illnesses or medication-related problems after your initial diagnosis of gynecomastia.
Set Up a Consultation Appointment With Dr. Sieber
If you think you may have pseudogynecomastia or gynecomastia, you have several treatment options available. Simple excess fat (adipose tissue), without the presence of a firm mass beneath the nipple, can be treated with diet and exercise if the patient is overweight or obese. Alternatively, liposuction can often be used to remove fat.
When a patient presents with firm lumps indicating gynecomastia, gynecomastia surgery may be performed to excise the lumps. Sometimes, liposuction is also used.
Double board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. David Sieber can perform both of these procedures to help you achieve a more attractive and comfortable physique. To book a consultation with Dr. Sieber today, please give our San Francisco office a call.