Gynecomastia From Risperdal
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Gynecomastia, or abnormal breast growth in males, is a medical condition that is believed to be associated with the antipsychotic medication Risperdal. Risperdal (risperidone) is manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, and the drug has been on the market in the United States since it was introduced in 1993. Initially approved as a treatment for schizophrenia, Risperdal is now indicated for a variety of psychiatric conditions, and has become one of the most widely used antipsychotic drugs in the country. Unfortunately, male patients taking Risperdal to treat schizophrenia or bipolar disorder may have an increased risk of suffering one or more serious side effects, including gynecomastia. More information about gynecomastia symptoms, treatments and complications can be found below.
Gynecomastia Signs and Symptoms
Gynecomastia is the abnormal enlargement of glandular breast tissue in males, and the condition can affect one or both breasts in Risperdal patients, sometimes unevenly. Gynecomastia occurs because of an imbalance in the hormonal environment in the body, and is associated with an excess of estrogens (female hormones), compared to androgens (male hormones). Some common symptoms of gynecomastia in Risperdal patients include:
In addition to the physical symptoms associated with gynecomastia, men suffering from the condition may also feel embarrassed about their physical appearance. In fact, in a study published in April 2013, researchers found that even mild breast growth in boys taking Risperdal can cause serious psychological side effects impacting their mental health, self-esteem and social functioning. According to the study findings, adolescents with gynecomastia experienced increased feelings of tension, loneliness and restlessness. In some cases, abnormal breast growth may also result in bodily pain, physical limitations and eating disorders.
Male Breast Growth Treatment
In some cases of gynecomastia side effects in males, the condition may go away on its own, although terminating the use of any medications that may have caused the breast growth is typically necessary. Treatment of gynecomastia with medication is also available, but there is limited data on the effectiveness of these medications, and no drugs have yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for gynecomastia treatment. It is widely believed that medication is more effective in treating gynecomastia in the early stages, as scarring typically occurs after approximately 12 months. Once the breast tissue has become scarred, surgical removal of the abnormal breast growth is the only possible treatment.
Complications of Gynecomastia
As mentioned earlier, gynecomastia that persists for a long period of time can cause scarring of the breast tissue, which is called fibrosis, in which case surgery may be required to resolve the problem. In boys and young men, gynecomastia side effects can result in psychological problems if the breast enlargement is pronounced or becomes a source of embarrassment. While gynecomastia is not typically associated with long-term medical issues, men with the condition do have about a five-fold greater risk for developing male breast cancer, compared to the general population. It is believed that, while the abnormal breast growth itself is not a precancerous condition, the hormonal changes that result in gynecomastia may increase a male’s risk of developing breast cancer.
Research Linking Risperdal to Male Breast Growth
Mounting research examining the potential adverse effects of Risperdal use has suggested that the atypical antipsychotic may cause increased levels of prolactin, which is a hormone that regulates breast growth in milk production. According to this research, elevated prolactin levels can lead to spontaneous milk production in women, but may cause gynecomastia in men. The first connection between Risperdal and gynecomastia side effects was identified in 1999, when the journal Psychopharmacology published a study linking Risperdal to gynecomastia when used with the antidepressant Prozac. In 2006, a study was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology showing that prolactin levels can increase significantly when Risperdal is administered to adolescent patients. Another study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Pharmacology in 2009 indicated that elevated prolactin levels associated with Risperdal use persisted for up to two years.