What causes nipple inversion and how to treat it?

Symptom Database

Have you ever noticed that your nipples appear to be inverted or pulled inward instead of protruding outward? This condition, known as nipple inversion, can be a source of concern and self-consciousness for many individuals. In this article, we will explore the causes of nipple inversion and discuss various treatment options available to correct this condition.

What is Nipple Inversion?

Nipple inversion is a condition where the nipple retracts or pulls inward instead of pointing outward. It can affect one or both nipples and may be present from birth or develop later in life. Nipple inversion can vary in severity, with some nipples only slightly inverted and others deeply inverted.

Causes of Nipple Inversion

There are several factors that can contribute to nipple inversion:

1. Shortened Milk Ducts

One of the primary causes of nipple inversion is shortened milk ducts. The milk ducts are responsible for carrying milk from the mammary glands to the nipple. If these ducts are shorter than usual, they can pull the nipple inward, causing it to invert.

2. Congenital Factors

Some individuals are born with inverted nipples due to congenital factors. This means that the condition is present from birth and is not caused by any external factors. Congenital nipple inversion is usually harmless and does not require treatment unless it causes discomfort or affects breastfeeding.

3. Breastfeeding

During breastfeeding, the suction created by the baby’s mouth can sometimes cause the nipple to become temporarily inverted. This is known as acquired nipple inversion and usually resolves on its own after breastfeeding is complete.

4. Trauma or Injury

In some cases, trauma or injury to the breast can lead to nipple inversion. This can occur due to accidents, surgeries, or other physical trauma that affects the breast tissue and milk ducts.

Treatment Options for Nipple Inversion

If you are concerned about your inverted nipples, there are several treatment options available:

1. Nipple Stimulation

One of the simplest and non-invasive methods to temporarily correct nipple inversion is through nipple stimulation. Gently massaging or rolling the nipple between your fingers can help to temporarily protrude the nipple. However, this method provides only temporary relief and may not be effective for deeply inverted nipples.

2. Nipple Suckers or Nipple Everters

Nipple suckers or nipple everters are devices that create suction around the nipple, helping to draw it out and temporarily correct inversion. These devices can be used before breastfeeding or as part of a regular nipple care routine. However, it is important to use them with caution and follow the instructions provided to avoid any potential damage to the nipple or breast tissue.

3. Nipple Piercing

In some cases, nipple piercing can help to correct nipple inversion. The piercing creates a small hole in the nipple, which can prevent it from retracting inward. However, nipple piercing should only be considered after consulting with a professional piercer or healthcare provider, as it carries certain risks and may not be suitable for everyone.

4. Nipple Inversion Surgery

If non-invasive methods do not provide satisfactory results, nipple inversion surgery may be considered. This surgical procedure aims to release the shortened milk ducts and reshape the nipple to achieve a more protruding appearance. Nipple inversion surgery is typically performed under local anesthesia and involves minimal scarring.

When to Seek Medical Advice

While nipple inversion is usually harmless, there are certain cases where medical advice should be sought:

  • If you notice a sudden change in the appearance of your nipples, such as new inversion or asymmetry
  • If you experience pain, discharge, or other unusual symptoms in the breast or nipple area
  • If nipple inversion is causing difficulty with breastfeeding

It is important to consult with a healthcare professional who can evaluate your specific situation and provide appropriate guidance and treatment options.


Nipple inversion is a common condition that can be caused by various factors, including shortened milk ducts, congenital factors, breastfeeding, or trauma. While some cases of nipple inversion may not require treatment, there are several options available for those seeking correction. From non-invasive methods like nipple stimulation and nipple suckers to more invasive options like nipple piercing or surgery, individuals can choose the approach that best suits their needs and preferences. If you have concerns about nipple inversion, it is always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance.

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