ITCHY NIPPLES: Everyone experiences itchy nipples in their lives, and this rarely amount to serious consequences, so please calm your anxieties.
Many reasons can cause itchy nipples and most can be cured with simple natural antidotes or over the counter drugs and ointments. However, this is not to dissuade the reader from consulting a doctor if the symptoms discussed in the article last for longer periods. Persistent itchiness accompanied with other symptoms is the body’s indication towards underlying problems.
Here is an accurate list of what causes itchiness on the nipples, and how to counter it using home remedies and other remedies.
SYMPTOMS OF ITCHINESS
Itchiness on your breast and nipples can start as just a usual itch which one feels compelled to scratch. However, if this itchiness continues, it may be accompanied by other symptoms which, when encountered early on, can help in detecting the infection at a nascent stage.
One is advised to look out for the following symptoms:
- Flaky Skin
- Yellow/Bloody Discharge
- Crusty Skin
- Milk Residue (if lactating)
- Thick Skin on Areolas
- Tingling on Nipples
- Flat Nipple
CAUSES OF ITCHINESS ON NIPPLES
Itchiness on the nipple, along with the accompanying symptoms occur on our bodies for a reason. These reasons can vary according to the lifestyle, or health and personal hygiene of the reader. Everybody functions differently. The causes of itchiness on the nipples may be one or many of the following:
The skin on our areolas is more sensitive than that on the rest of our body. It is more perceptive to infections than areas of our bodies which are constantly exposed to the environment. A change in the body-care products used can cause skin irritation. One is advised to look-out for the presence of salicylic acid, an oil soluble beta-hydroxy acid – found in soaps and cleaning products for treating oily skin – in the everyday cleaning products. Sodium laureth sulfate and sodium laurel sulfate are the detergent compounds found in most soaps, shampoos and baby bathing products. So if your skin is perpetually irritated after changing products, check for these ingredients on the back of the bottles.
According to Mayo Clinic, “Some people react to strong irritants after a single exposure. Others may develop signs and symptoms after repeated exposures to even mild irritants. And some people develop a tolerance to the substance over time.”
However, if one has not changed products in the preceding week, it is possible that the irritation on your nipples is contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis occurs when a rash erupts onto the skin due to contact with substances which don’t suit your skin. Atopic dermatitis looks very similar to contact dermatitis rashes – an itchy inflammation of the skin.
Eczema and Psoriasis
Eczema is signified by dry patches of skin on the folds on one’s arms, elbows or knees. This also causes itchiness on the nipples or in severe cases, the entire breast. Scaly skin around the nipples may also be a sign on eczema. The following may also be signs of eczema:
- Moisture oozing from the nipple
- Crusty skin around the areolas
- Painful fissuring
A woman who is breastfeeding may experience these symptoms due to the baby not being able to latch correctly onto the nipple. Women over the age of 45 are advised to contact a doctor immediately if such symptoms persist over a few days. In rare cases, eczema may turn into Paget’s disease, which has been elucidated later in the article.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune inflammatory condition that occurs in genetically susceptible persons and that initially presents with the onset of inflammatory skin, silvery scales and red patches. One may complain of dry, cracked skin that may bleed; pruritus, burning, or soreness on the nipple area or the breast.
Causes of Psoriasis:
Psoriasis may be caused by factors such as:
- Rubbing of skin on rough cloth or fabric
- Dry weather
How to prevent Eczema and Psoriasis:
To prevent these conditions from occurring, there are many steps that may be taken, such as:
- Using mild detergents to launder
- For new mothers – Cleaning the breast with a warm towel after each feed
- Protecting the sensitive areolas from friction by wearing cotton bras
The weather plays a major role in the general health of our skin. The dryness in the environment plays havoc and causes dryness on the breasts and especially on the nipples, which causes a lot of irritation or pain.
This can be combated by using moisturizing products after bathing. Baths must be restricted to no more than 10 minutes and lukewarm water. Hot water is conducive for removing essential oils from the skin and irritating already inflamed skin. This can leave one’s nipples feeling raw and hurt. Instead, a short bath, hand cleaning with mild soaps, and moisturizing afterwards can help soothe the pain. Pat-drying the affected area rather than rubbing dry with a towel is recommended.
Have you ever felt constricted in your sports bra? It might be time to throw it in the trash. Underclothes should be comfortably sized and not too tight. Tight fabrics wrapped around one’s body can cause rashes on the nipples due to friction with the cloth.
The coarseness of the cloth can cause inflamed skin or the nipples to burn or scab over.
These symptoms are especially common in athletes or regular gym-goers, and is often referred to as “Jogger’s Nipple”. This can be attributed to the salt content in our sweat. The salt in our sweat, if unwashed, dries up our skin. Sweat which collects on the underside of one’s breasts can cause the development of yeast infections or thrush, which spreads to the nipples as well.
Rinsing off with mild soap is recommended after working out.
Thrush or Yeast Infection
A pregnant woman experiences increased breast sensitivity due to increase in hormone production in her body. The elevated levels of oestrogen causes the sugar levels in the body to surge, and promotes the growth of yeast fungus or thrush. This is naturally found in the mucus membrane, and is triggered by antibiotics. So if post-partum antibiotics have been consumed, one may develop a thrush or yeast infection.
In new mothers, a deep pain in the breast or on the tips of the nipples may be felt immediately before or after feeding. The mother and baby must be treated simultaneously for thrush, as they can keep trading their infection back and forth.
Yeast infection also leads to Blocked Milk Ducts. Blisters or flaky skin around the nipples can cause a young mother’s milk supply to deplete and the ducts to be clogged with milk residue. In such cases, women are advised to use a warm towel to wipe the breast after each feed. Manual compressing is also recommended. When unchecked, this can develop into mastitis, which requires a doctor’s immediate consultation.
PMS, Pregnancy and Menopause
Any woman who experiences premenstrual symptoms knows the pain of having swollen or tender breasts, tips of the nipples and areolas. This feeling should subside once your period starts. If for any reason, this feeling continues for a while, a doctor must be consulted.
Pregnant women also complain of breast itchiness and pain. This is because the woman’s body grows to accommodate the life born inside of her. Her breasts swell. Sometimes the nipples may become raw and painful. This is because the skin on the breasts stretches and expands, causing itchiness and pain. This can be combated by applying soothing lotions or oils onto the nipple area.
Menopausal bodies experience itchiness due to aging of the skin. The skin, over time loses its capability of retaining moisture and elasticity. This results in flaky skin and can turn into fissures/scratches.
The cures for these kinds of itchiness can be found in home remedies or over the counter products.
Radiation is used to kill off cancer cells, which dries up the skin. This dry skin eventually peels, resulting in pain and irritation on the skin around the breasts. This leaves the skin looking red, dry and rough to the touch. It can make the nipples to feel flattened and flaky.
Radiation therapy is an important medical treatment and one must consult a doctor if any anomaly is spotted in their body in the duration of such treatment.
Paget’s disease is a rare breast cancer which originates on the nipple. Paget’s disease only accounts for 5% of all cancer in women. But, 97% of the people who are diagnosed with this disease also have invasive cancer in another part of their breasts.
It first affects the milk ducts in the nipple, then the nipple surface and then the areola. The areola feels red, itchy, scaly and irritated.
Research cannot determine why Paget’s disease starts in the first place. There are two theories that doctors attribute to this. One is that the cancerous cells start to grow in the milk ducts and then come out of the nipple surface, thereby validating invasive cancer in other parts of the breast. The other theory states that the nipple cells become cancerous and cause the infection.
Paget’s can be easily misdiagnosed as eczema due to the similarity in symptoms. In the beginning, the symptoms of Paget’s come and go as well. If the major symptom of rash like irritation around the skin, and flakiness and discharge from the nipples is continuous over a period of time, a registered practitioner must be contacted. Paget’s disease usually affects one breast and not both.
Ways to diagnose Paget’s disease include:
A physical examination of the breast will be conducted by the doctor who will feel the breast and the nipple for lumps or a mass.
This will help in identifying the evidence of presence of cancer cells in the nipple.
Ultrasound or MRI
For checking if other parts of the breast are producing cancer cells, an Ultrasound or MRI may be conducted.
Biopsy of the Areola
A doctor may want to take some tissue from the affected breast and look at it under a microscope to identify the disease. He will do this through a minor surgery with minimal invasion. The doctor might also ask for a sample of the discharge, if any, coming out of the nipple.
Paget’s disease is a cancerous disease and is best diagnosed by a doctor. However, the common symptoms of Paget’s and minor skin irritation are the same. If the symptoms persist for a long period, the reader is advised to contact a registered medical professional.
NATURAL REMEDIES FOR CURING ITCHY NIPPLES
Though one may become worried about the health of their nipples, serious consequences arising out of nipple inflammation is hardly any cause for major concern. Here are some natural remedies to help with curbing nipple infections at home:
Coconut oil is a naturally soothing oil. When used for itchy nipples, it rehydrates the part of skin it is applied on, and pacifies the irritation on the nipple.
How to Apply Coconut Oil:
- Take a spoonful of coconut oil in a bowl and heat it for 10 – 20 seconds.
- Apply the warm oil to the affected area gently, by rubbing in a circular motion.
- Once massaged in, leave for 30 minutes and then wash off and repeat a few times a day.
For those who suffer from scratched, itchy nipples due to Jogger’s Nipple, jojoba oil can do the trick. When mixed with shea butter, olive oil or other moisturising agents it can heal the irritated skin on the nipples very quickly.
The process to be followed is to mix the oils evenly, in equal proportion. Then one must massage it onto the breast in a circular motion.
A cold compress can be used for immediate relief from pain or itchiness. However, the cold should not affect the wound adversely.
How to make a cold compress:
- Wrap ice cubes into a clean washcloth.
- Allow for the ice to cool the cloth before application to affected area.
- Do not keep on the area for more than 5 minutes on account of frostbite.
Cold compress is best for irritated skin. However, it is not safe to apply ice directly to your nipple. This might cause the area to numb out and prove detrimental to your health.
A simple bathing routine can help in keeping the nipples clean and healthy. To achieve this, one must first purchase mild or antiseptic soaps. Long baths and soaking in a tub of hot water is not ideal for those dealing with itchy or irritated nipples.
One lukewarm shower should last no longer than 10 minutes. Towel rubbing is not recommended. Pat-drying the affected areas with a washcloth will soothe the infected area post bathing. Moisturising lotions or oils must be used to soothe the irritated area after bathing.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar contains strong anti-bacterial, viral and fungal properties. It is a great cure for the common cold, allergy, inflammation, acne, dandruff, eczema and many other skin ailments.
How to use:
- Mix one cup of apple cider vinegar to five cups of water.
- Use a piece of cotton or a clean washcloth to dip into the mixture and apply on the affected area.
- Repeat application twice a day for best results.
Calamine lotions are recommended to pregnant women whose skin is still stretching. This lotion contains moisturizing elements and can be bought at local drugstores.
For instant relief from nipple itching due to dry weather, butter may be used. Applying slightly melted butter onto the dry skin of the nipples can prove to work wonders instantly.
However, it must not be used regularly as the grease clogs the pores on the breast. After applying and leaving the butter for a short while, one must clean it with a cloth and only then breastfeed.
Aloe Vera gel contains a number of important nutrients. It consists of almost twenty minerals such as calcium, copper, chromium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus etc and also contains 12 vitamins including vitamin C, and E, and two hundred active enzymes and eight amino acids. These ingredients give Aloe Vera its healing qualities.
How to use aloe to soothe itchy nipples:
- Extract aloe gel from an aloe vera leaf.
- Apply it to the affected area and let dry after application.
- Clean the area using warm water and a clean washcloth.
- Repeat the application a few times a day for three days.
Honey can be used to cure itchiness anywhere on the skin. It is the most fool-proof manner in which itchiness around the nipples can also be cured. One must simply either apply the honey directly on the skin for about five minutes, or mix it with olive oil and apply, and keep for half an hour. The honey and oil should be cleaned regularly.
Basil leaves are known to have blood clotting qualities. These leaves, when applied directly for a short amount of time, can help in soothing bleeding nipples.
How to make Basil Leaf paste:
- Collect the basil and washing the leaves.
- Wash and grind leaves with water.
- Apply paste on the nipples and breast, and leave until dry.
- Wash with cold water before feeding infant.
The basil leaf treatment must be repeated no more than once a week only.
An oatmeal wash is moisturizing for dry nipples. For this, one must simply put a small bowl full of oatmeal and soak it in a lukewarm bath, before soaking in it themselves.
This provides great results in weather caused dryness.
- It is important to wash one’s hands before massaging oils into the wounded skin.
- The oils used must only be slightly heated as hot oil can burn the skin or cause more irritation.
- Apple cider vinegar must not be applied to the affected area without diluting.
No prescription ointments or antibiotics must be taken as this may inflame the situation.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why do my sore breasts itch?
Sore breasts can be caused by numerous factors such as PMS, pregnancy or menopause. One must consider these factors before undertaking any treatment. Sore breasts are also caused by rough handling or physical activity.
Why is there a rash on my breast?
Rashes on the breast occur because of sensitive skin. The sensitive skin is easily irritated by friction or allergic reaction to detergents, or chemical compounds. In rare cases, breast rashes can turn out to be cancerous or benign tumours.
What are symptoms of breast cancer?
Symptoms for breast cancer are hard to diagnose at home. However, self-breast exams can be conducted at home. Obvious symptoms of this include rashes or tenderness which continues over a period, bloody discharge, periodic flaky/crusty nipples etc.
If suspecting breast cancer, a registered medical professional must be consulted.
Keeping in mind that a drastic change in the conditions of one’s nipples could mean serious consequences, one must watch for the obvious changes in the skin around the areolas. These changes are good indicators of breast health and must not be overlooked.
If the symptoms persist for a long duration, a registered medical practitioner must be contacted as soon as possible. However, for usual itches and dryness around the areolas, natural remedies suggested may be used for reasonable results.