A normal nipple sticks out of the areola (circular area of pigmented skin around the nipple). But a nipple is described as inverted or retracted if it lies flat against the areola or goes inward.
Some people are born with inverted nipples (congenital inversion), while some develop them later in life (acquired inversion).
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It’s not only females that can have inverted nipple, males too have them. In some cases, only one nipple is inverted.
Though most women who develop inverted nipples later in life can be worried, but it is usually not a cause for alarm in most cases. It doesn’t also affect breastfeeding because a baby can comfortably latch over the whole areola.
However, depending on the degree of inversion, a person may face challenges with breastfeeding or be unable to do so.
What causes an inverted nipple?
Acquired inversion can point to an underlying medical condition that needs to be properly diagnosed. People should see a doctor if one or both nipples invert in a short period.
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Conditions that can cause nipple inversion include:
- Breast cancer
- Duct ectasia: An abnormal dilation of a duct in the breast tissue
- Mastitis: Infection of the mammary gland
- Complications of breast surgery
- An abscess under the areola
If a person notices a nipple discharge, scaly or swollen nipple, they should consult a doctor immediately.
Stages of Nipple Inversion
There are three grades or stages of nipple inversion, depending on the degree of inversion and mobility of the nipple:
- Grade 1: In this preliminary stage, a person can easily pull out the nipple, and it maintains its projection. This grade of inversion causes no major problems with breastfeeding.
- Grade 2: A person can still pull the nipple out, but not as easily, and the nipple tends to retract. Breastfeeding may become difficult at this stage.
- Grade 3: In this final stage, a person may be unable to pull out their nipple. When pressing the nipple outward, it immediately retracts. Breastfeeding may be impossible.
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Are inverted nipples normal?
Inverted nipples don’t require treatment, according to doctors. They consider it a normal variation in nipple shape, and it is usually not a cause for alarm. A doctor may recommend treatment if the underlying cause of the inversion is dangerous.
Impact on breastfeeding
Inverted nipples can make breastfeeding difficult, but a baby can latch over the whole areola, bringing the nipple to the back of the throat, meaning breastfeeding is usually possible with inverted nipples. Nipple stimulation can often cause the nipples to protrude. For some women, their inverted nipples may start to protrude naturally during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
How to treat an inverted nipple
A person may wish to change the shape of their nipple due to concerns about breastfeeding or for beauty purposes. There are various treatments to try, but consult your doctor before trying the methods below:
- Suction devices: These are noninvasive way to draw out the nipple.
- Hoffman’s technique: This is a manual exercise for drawing out the nipple. This method involves placing the thumbs on either side of the nipple at its base and pressing the thumbs firmly into the breast tissue, and separating them gently. This causes the nipple to point outward.
- Piercings: This may help to keep the nipple in an upright position.
- Cosmetic surgery: Healthcare professionals can use several different surgical procedures to change the shape of the nipple so that it points outwards, while still maintaining its breast feeding functions.
Disclaimer: The content provided on healthdiary365.com is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical doctor or healthcare professional.