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Definition

What are inverted nipples?

An inverted nipple is a condition in which the nipple is pulled inward into the breast instead of pointing outward. This condition can also be called nipple inversion, nipple retraction, or invaginated nipple, although some observers distinguish these two variations.

How common are inverted nipples?

Inverted nipples are common. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of inverted nipples?

The nipple is the central projection in the areola. Inverted nipples can be either temporary or permanent. A truly inverted nipple is caused by adhesions at the base of the nipple that bind the skin to the underlying tissue. It is also possible to have an inverted nipple on one breast, but not the other.

 

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

 

When should I see my doctor?

 

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes inverted nipples?

General causes include:

  • The woman may have inverted nipples by birth.
  • Following breastfeeding, the milk ducts may have been damaged or become fibrous and retracted, which can pull the nipples inwards.
  • Previous surgeries may have caused scar tissue formation, which can create nipple inversion.
  • Breast cancer may be the cause of an inverted nipple.
  • With age, the breast skin may sag and the skin around the nipples may become loose, leading to inversion.
  • Any infection in the breast may cause inflammation, resulting in fibrous scar tissue pulling the nipple inwards.
  • Some women may have inverted nipples during pregnancy.

Developing inverted nipples later in life may be a symptom of a more serious medical condition, such as Paget’s disease of the breast. This condition primarily affects women over age 50 and is a rare form of breast cancer in which the ducts beneath the areola or in some rare cases, the nipple itself, have been affected by cancer.

While breast cancer rarer in men than in women, it can also occur in men. There is also a less severe condition, mammary duct ectasia, which is an inflammation and sometimes infection of the mammary ducts. This condition is usually more present in women over 50 as it is typically caused by hormonal changes. Inversion of the nipples can also indicate disorders of the breast, such as breast abscess, fat necrosis, and mastitis.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for inverted nipples?

There are many risk factors for inverted nipples, such as:

  • Genetics
  • Pregnant
  • After breastfeeding
  • Aging
  • Infection

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How are inverted nipples diagnosed?

To test whether you do indeed have inverted nipples, you can try the “pinch” test. Hold your breast at the edge of the areola between your thumb and index finger. Press in gently but firmly about an inch behind your nipple. If your nipple protrudes, that’s great. If it does not protrude or become erect, it is considered flat. If it retracts or disappears, it is truly inverted.

How are inverted nipples treated?

Suction device

There are some suction devices promoted for reversing inverted nipples. Most are worn under clothing for extended periods of time. These products are sold under a variety of names, including:

  • nipple retractors
  • nipple extractors
  • shells
  • cups

These devices usually work by pulling the nipple into a small cup. This stimulates the nipple and makes it protrude. When used over time, these devices can help loosen the nipple tissue. This can help your nipples remain erect for longer periods of time.

Nipple piercing

Nipple piercing is sometimes done to draw out inverted nipples. This is because jewelry worn in the piercing can help keep your nipple in an erect position.

Surgery

If you’re looking for something permanent, your only option is surgery. There are two different types of surgeries:

  • Surgery with partial preservation of milk ducts: This is also known as the “parachute flap” technique. Women undergoing this procedure should still be able to breastfeed because some of the milk duct system remains attached. You shouldn’t experience a change in nipple sensation.
  • Surgery with detached milk ducts: This procedure is more common. Women undergoing this procedure won’t be able to breastfeed because of the removal of the milk ducts. You shouldn’t experience a change in nipple sensation.

Talk to your doctor about which option is right for you.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage inverted nipples?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Inverted Nipples:

  • Place your thumbs on either side of your nipple. Be sure to place them at the base of the nipple, not the outside of the areola.
  • Press firmly into your breast tissue.
  • While still pressing down, gently pull your thumbs away from each other.
  • Move your thumbs all around the nipple and repeat.

You can do this whenever you’d like for your nipples to protrude, but it isn’t clear how long this effect will last. For best results, practice this technique at least once a day. Regular stimulation may help your nipples protrude more often.

There haven’t been any studies proving whether it’s effective. Everyone’s breasts are different, so try not to get discouraged if this method doesn’t work for you.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: August 4, 2017 | Last Modified: August 4, 2017

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