What causes nipple discharge or inversion and what should I do?

Symptom Database

Nipple discharge and inversion are common concerns that many people may experience at some point in their lives. While these conditions can be alarming, it is important to understand their causes, symptoms, and available treatment options. In this article, we will explore the various factors that can lead to nipple discharge or inversion and discuss what steps you should take if you notice these changes in your breasts.

Nipple Discharge Causes

Nipple discharge refers to any fluid that comes out of the nipple. It can vary in color, consistency, and quantity. While nipple discharge can be a normal occurrence, it can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Some common causes of nipple discharge include:

  • Hormonal changes: Hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or breastfeeding can cause nipple discharge.
  • Infection: Infections, such as mastitis or a breast abscess, can lead to nipple discharge.
  • Fibrocystic changes: Fibrocystic breast changes, which are noncancerous lumps in the breast tissue, can cause nipple discharge.
  • Intraductal papilloma: This is a noncancerous growth in the milk ducts that can cause nipple discharge.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as birth control pills or antidepressants, can lead to nipple discharge as a side effect.
  • Injury or trauma: Any injury or trauma to the breast can cause nipple discharge.

Nipple Discharge Symptoms

The symptoms of nipple discharge can vary depending on the underlying cause. Some common symptoms include:

  • Spontaneous discharge from one or both nipples
  • Discharge that is bloody, clear, yellow, green, or milky in color
  • Discharge that occurs without squeezing or touching the nipple
  • Changes in breast size or shape
  • Breast pain or tenderness
  • Lumps or masses in the breast

Nipple Discharge Management

If you notice nipple discharge, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management. The following steps can help in managing nipple discharge:

  • Medical evaluation: Your healthcare provider will perform a thorough examination and may order additional tests, such as a mammogram, ultrasound, or biopsy, to determine the cause of the nipple discharge.
  • Treatment of underlying condition: Once the cause of the nipple discharge is identified, your healthcare provider will recommend appropriate treatment. This may include medications, surgery, or other interventions.
  • Self-care measures: In some cases, self-care measures can help manage nipple discharge. These may include wearing supportive bras, applying warm compresses to the breasts, and avoiding nipple stimulation.

Inverted Nipple Causes

Inverted nipples are nipples that are turned inward instead of pointing outward. This condition can be present from birth or develop later in life. Some common causes of inverted nipples include:

  • Short milk ducts: In some individuals, the milk ducts are shorter than usual, causing the nipples to invert.
  • Scar tissue: Scar tissue from previous breast surgery or trauma can lead to nipple inversion.
  • Breastfeeding: The act of breastfeeding can sometimes cause nipple inversion.
  • Genetics: Inverted nipples can be inherited from family members.

Inverted Nipple Treatment

If you have inverted nipples and are concerned about their appearance or functionality, there are treatment options available. Some common methods for correcting inverted nipples include:

  • Nipple exercises: Regularly performing nipple exercises, such as gently pulling and rolling the nipples, can help to gradually correct nipple inversion.
  • Nipple shields: Nipple shields can be worn to temporarily draw out inverted nipples and make breastfeeding easier.
  • Surgical correction: In severe cases of nipple inversion, surgical correction may be necessary. This procedure involves releasing the milk ducts and reshaping the nipple to create a more outward appearance.

In conclusion, nipple discharge and inversion can be caused by various factors, ranging from hormonal changes to underlying medical conditions. If you experience nipple discharge or notice changes in the appearance of your nipples, it is important to seek medical evaluation for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management. Remember, early detection and treatment can significantly improve outcomes. So, don’t hesitate to consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about your nipple health.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
Add a comment