After years of being constantly uncomfortable and vaguely embarrassed, 26-year-old Arjun*, an IT professional, decided to undergo surgery for gynaecomastia, a condition which causes boys’ and men’s breasts to swell and become larger than normal.

“I was uncomfortable in T-shirts as I felt they were too tight across my chest. And I was embarrassed to go swimming with my colleagues. I even went to the gym for a year but it didn’t help,” said Arjun said.

On Sunday, two days after the surgery, he felt much happier than he’s been in a long while, said Arjun.

Surgery for gynaecomastia seems to be gaining in popularity in the city, with doctors reporting a large number of patients coming in for the procedure.

At the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital, where a cosmetic surgery clinic was set up a year-and-a-half ago, this procedure is the second-most sought-after, following tummy tucks, said R. Gopinath, head of the clinic.

“About 20 per cent of our patients come in for gynaecomastia. A lot of them have just completed school and are apprehensive about going to a college hostel with this condition. Some are working professionals who come in before getting married. The surgery goes a long way in giving them a morale boost,” he said.

Jayanthy Ravindran, chief cosmetic surgeon, Kauvery Aesthete, performs about 10 of these procedures every month. “The reason for the rise in numbers is increased awareness. A simple Google search will throw up the options available for this condition,” she said. In 90 per cent of the cases, Dr. Ravindran said, there is no identifiable cause.

“During adolescence, there is a hormonal surge. A hormonal imbalance at this time or a combination of factors such as sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet can lead to a proliferation of gland and fat tissue in the breast,” she said.

In many young men, the condition leads to a huge dip in confidence, said Karthik Ram, cosmetic surgeon at Chennai Plastic Surgery, who operates on 10-20 patients a month and has seen a rise in the number of cases every year.

“I know of a young engineering college student who attempted suicide because of this,” he said. Teasing from peers and embarrassment often leads to lowered academic performance, postponing of marriage and putting on of weight in general so the chest doesn’t stand out, he said.

Often, young boys find it hard to talk to their parents about it. “My son used to lock himself in his room. His condition was very prominent. He was very active till he was about 11, but after that, he avoided many activities. We didn’t want his confidence to take a beating, so we decided to go in for surgery,” said Pavitra*, mother of a 13-year-old.

(*Names have been changed to protect privacy.)

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