Healthy nipples are most times “pop out” or become visible after stimulation or temperature changes. Any nipple that is more indented than protruding can be considered as inverted nipple which should not be confused with so called “flat nipples” which are lying flat against the areola, instead of sticking out or dimpling in. Actually the inverted nipple is a condition in which the nipple is pulled inward into the breast instead of pointing outward. Some experts call it as “nipple inversion” or “nipple retraction” or “invaginated nipple”.
About 10-15% of women have inverted nipples which usually appear on one side – it is pretty common for one nipple to be inverted, while the other protrudes. If you have inverted nipple, you should not be embarrassed or shy. There could be as many variations of breasts and nipples as many variations of our face details (nose, eyes, ears, etc.). It should be mentioned that inverted nipples are just as sensitive as “pop out” nipples.
Inverted nipple is caused by internal breast tissue – when breast tissue is attached extra tightly to the inside of the nipple’s skin.
Sometimes nipple inversions can be temporary – coming and going (depending on circumstances). Some women with inverted nipples noted changes during pregnancy when nipples begin protruding. Other group of women noted inversion of nipples during pregnancy.
Inverted nipple causes
Breast cancer is the most dangerous cause of inverted nipple – it is invasive cancerous tumor that develops in the mammary gland. Regular mammography would be strongly recommended.
Paget disease of the breast is a rare form of cancer that forms in or around the nipple and look like eczema.
If you suddenly noted nipple changes on one side including inverted nipple, better to visit your doctor urgently.
Suddenly inverted nipples can be warning sign of breast cancer.
Here are some other breast cancer symptoms:
- Breast lump or thickened area;
- Breast size or shape changes;
- Breast skin changes – dimpling, orange-like skin, increased sensitivity of skin;
- Nipple changes – deformed shape, nipple or areola rash, blood stained discharge,
- Armpit swelling or lump.
Contact dermatitis can be triggered by different allergens (chemicals, irritating tower, cosmetic or sanitary ingredients). Main symptoms include nipple rash after exposure to the allergen/irritant, red and swollen/elevated nipple combined with inverted nipple.
Inflammation or Eczema
Any kind of nipple inflammation can change its shape and appearance. Sometimes after mastitis women could have nipple inversion. Infection which usually cause inflammation, trigger fibrous tissue to pull in the nipple.
Eczema is very specific skin inflammation which can cover the nipple. Sometimes nipple eczema can be a sign of Paget disease (rare form of inflammatory breast cancer).
Trauma – Scars
Women can have breast scars after trauma or after surgical interventions. Breast scars can tighten the attachment of nipple to breast internal tissues, making nipple inverted – actually the fibrous scar tissue is pulling the nipple in.
Nipple inversion can be genetically inherited – you can be just born with this type of nipple. Congenital type of nipple retraction could be discovered in women of same family (mother, grandmother, sister, ant, cousin).
Breast benign tumors
Sometimes benign breast tumors (breast cyst, fibroadenoma) can change the anatomy of the tissue pulling the nipple inwards.
After 50 most women experience breast drooping and the skin around the nipple becomes looser. Sometimes it can trigger nipple inversion.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Both pregnancy and breastfeeding can damage milk ducts and make them more fibrous and retract, pulling the nipple inwards.
Inverted nipple solutions
In most cases inverted nipples are just a variation in how breasts look. Some women prefer cosmetic surgery to correct inverted nipples for looking better. It should be mentioned that after cosmetic surgery nipples loose natural sensitivity.
Inverted nipple during pregnancy
Breastfeeding is easier when nipple is erected and some women with inverted nipple experience problems. This is why several techniques and solutions are invented.
If you are pregnant or approaching breastfeeding, you can use so called “Hoffman technique”, which involve manual manipulation of the nipple that can help loosen the tissue inside the breast that is causing the inversion.
Another option is breast pumps which can help not only milk extraction but also can pop the nipple out for easier breastfeeding.
Some breastfeeding women prefer using nipple shields – silicone cover with holes in it that is placed over the nipple during feedings.
Our grandmothers recommend nipple stimulation with hands or ice.
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