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Hypertrophy occurs at a cellular level, so it can happen in different parts of the body. Some types include ventricular, muscular, and clitoral hypertrophies. Female breasts can also experience this condition. Hypertrophy is a condition wherein a group of cells becomes enlarged, consequently making the organ where the cells are located enlarged as well. It does not necessarily pose any danger to a person’s health, but may cause some discomfort, such as in the abnormal enlargement of the breasts. The condition is different from hyperplasia, in which cells increase in number but not in size, though both conditions may occur simultaneously.
Muscle hypertrophy is often experienced and desired by bodybuilders, who make their muscles bigger through different exercises. Unlike many cells in the body, the muscular cells cannot be reproduced and replaced after a person reaches a certain age, so the only way to “build” muscle mass is to enlarge the cells, rather than make them multiply. Two kinds of hypertrophies can be experienced by the muscles: sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophies. The sarcoplasmic type causes an increased amount of sarcoplasmic fluid in the muscle cells, but does not necessarily increase strength in the muscles. The myofibrillar type, on the other hand, produces an increased amount of proteins, the “actin” and “myosin,” within the muscle cells, making the muscles bigger and stronger.
Another type of hypertrophy is the ventricular or cardiac hypertrophy, wherein there is an enlargement of one or both heart ventricles. This condition is not uncommon among athletes, who have regular trainings; constant and frequent activity forces the arteries to permanently expand to accommodate the accelerated blood flow, resulting in lower and healthier blood pressure. Pregnant women can also experience heart enlargement to supply adequate blood to the fetus. In some cases, hypertrophies can be dangerous when the enlargement is actually an inflammation caused by hypertension or other cardiac problems.
Two examples of uncommon hypertrophies are that of the breasts and clitoris, called gigantomastia and clitoromegaly, respectively. Gigantomastia is frequently caused by a hormonal imbalance or hypersensitivity in the female hormones, progesterone and estrogen, during puberty or adulthood. This can cause some discomfort in the breast area, such as pain and ulcers. This disorder can be remedied by taking medication to balance the hormone levels, along with surgery to reduce the breast size.
Clitoromegaly is a kind of hypertrophy that can also be caused by some hormonal imbalance of the female body, in which the clitoris has an abnormal protrusion, sometimes similar to a penis. The hormonal imbalance is usually a result of intersexuality, in which the person has both female and male characteristics. In congenital cases, the female fetus produces more testosterone than usual, but other females, such as transsexuals and bodybuilders, can also experience clitoromegaly when taking testosterone hormones regularly to maintain a masculine physique.
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