Medical Q&As

Male breast enlargement - normal?

My 13 year old son is experiencing sore and enlarged nipples. Is this a normal part of puberty? Presently his left one is sore and "puffed up", while a few weeks ago his right nipple was like this, now it has subsided.

This is very common in adolescent boys and can be a source of considerable embarrassment to some of them. It can be difficult for them especially when stripping off in a changing room before a football game or going for a swim. I know of a few young lads that actually gave up some sporting activities because of their acute embarrassment at this enlargement of their nipples. Reassurance is terribly important especially if your son is feeling vulnerable over it. The enlargement of the nipples is due to the swelling of the breast tissue behind the nipples. All men have a small amount of breast tissue and also have a small amount of oestrogen in their system. Oestrogen is the female sex hormone and it stimulates the breast tissue to enlarge. All of these changes are due to the fact that your son is undergoing the complex process of sexual development. Some adolescents may be particularly sensitive to the effects of the minuscule amounts of oestrogen in their system and develop small breast buds. This effect is purely temporary and over time the breast buds shrink and the problem disappears. The important message here is that the changes we are discussing are absolutely normal and do not require any medical intervention.