6 Signs the Nipples Are Warning One of Serious Health Conditions

6 Signs the Nipples Are Warning One of Serious Health Conditions

When it comes to a woman's body, the breasts are the most informative about any underlying medical conditions she might have.

Source: Illustration

Editor's note: This article was originally published on October 19, 2020. It has since been updated.

Of all the physical symptoms women have that can indicate their health condition, one of the least talked about signs involve the changes in the nipples and areola. While sometimes the changes we see are just a quick reaction to certain environmental stimulus, like stiffened nipples to hot or cold weather, it can actually be a sign of something more serious including conditions like breast cancer and Paget's disease. 


What are those nipple and areolar signs?

According to Very Well Health, there are 6 changes in the nipples and areola that can indicate serious health conditions:

1. Abnormal nipple discharge

Normal discharge from the nipples usually occur during pregnancy or right after is healthy. However, at any other time, can be a warning that there is something wrong. An infection can lead to you seeing discharge that looks similar to pus and has a greenish-yellow tinge. Benign tumors called fibroadenomas or lumps known as intraductal papillomas, which are typically noncancerous may also lead to this kind of discharge states Medical News Today

If you are going through menopause, you might be suffering from mammary duct ectasia wherein the discharge is usually thick and sticky and greyish with a green tint. This occurs when the milk ducts become swollen and clogged during this phase. However, it is a benign condition. The real worry starts if you see blood in your nipple discharge from one breast as it may indicate breast cancer or Paget's Disease of the breast, according to the American Cancer Society


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2. Nipple lumps and bumps

When you are exposed to cold air or touch, it's normal for your nipples to get erect and feel bumpy. During pregnancy, the bumps in your areola will become larger as a way to prepare for breastfeeding. However, if you're not pregnant and can feel bumps or lumps in the areas surrounding your nipple, you need to have it checked out immediately. While it could be as non-threatening as a clogged milk duct or a blister, it could also be something worse, such as "ductal carcinoma in situ" which is an early stage of breast cancer, states Mayo Clinic. This condition is treatable.

3. Nipple pain

If you are having nipple pain when you're not pregnant or on your periods, it could be a sign of something more serious. If you have unrelieved nipple tenderness, itchiness, or non-injury related pain, a visit to the doctor is mandatory. Usually not a symptom of breast cancer, it could be a sign that the cancer cells are turning malignant. Other conditions include mastitis, fibroadenoma, or a benign cyst.


4. Changes in nipple and areola size

While it's normal to experience swelling in your breasts and nipples during pregnancy, ingesting oral contraceptives, or your menstrual cycle, other times might be a warning sign. If you have uneven breasts as part of your growth, then it's okay. However, if you see that one nipple or the entire breast grows obviously larger than the other, it could be related to conditions like mastitis, which is an infection of the breast tissue or breast cancer. Visit a doctor to help determine the proper cause of this change. 

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5. Inverted or retracted nipples

Inverted nipples (nipples appear sunken) or retracted nipples (raised outward and then pulled inward) may be a feature that you were born with. However, if you didn't have them before and are suddenly seeing them, it could be a sign of breast cancer, especially if it only affects one breast. The moment you see this change, a visit to the doctor is necessary. 


6. Changes in skin texture and color

If your nipples and areola become darker or become visibly larger, or are unevenly distributed and is not caused by pregnancy, then it isn't considered normal. This change could be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer (rare but rapidly spreading cancer), squamous cell carcinoma (common skin cancer associated with overexposure to the sun), Paget's disease (bone disorder), eczema (itchy skin rash) or Bowen's disease (early form of skin cancer). 

If you see any of these changes occurring in your breasts when you are not menstruating, menopausal, pregnant, or taking oral contraceptives, visit your doctor immediately so that if a serious condition is discovered as a cause, it can be treated at the earliest. 















Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.