Nipple pain: 9 causes in men and women

The main cause of nipple pain is usually friction, but it can also be due to more serious pathologies such as some infections.

Last update: 02 October, 2022

The breast area is a very sensitive region in both men and women, especially the area near the nipple. Thus, Nipple pain can be a very annoying symptom for anyone. The causes that explain the appearance of this clinical manifestation are very varied. Do you want to know more? Keep reading!

Nipple pain is a very variable symptom, so the intensity and duration will depend on each person. In general, it is perceived as discomfort or increased sensitivity. In addition, the pain disappears on its own after 3 or 4 days in most cases, without the need for specific treatment.

9 possible causes of sore nipples

Some people may experience sore nipples from friction caused during intercourse.

The causes for which this symptom can appear are very varied and can range from a simple friction to a serious pathology such as Paget’s disease. Fortunately, most causes are benign and there is no need to be alarmed. Some of the main causes are as follows.

1. Friction

The most common cause of sore nipples in both men and women is friction. Friction with clothing usually occurs when doing intense physical activity. The movements cause the clothing to rub against the nipple and irritation occurs.

This pain can also occur from wearing an ill-fitting bra or from friction between the bodies during sexual intercourse. People often report a sharp, stabbing pain due to irritation. Also, the skin may be dry or cracked.

Ideally, avoid using the material that caused the irritation.. Also, it is possible to place a strip of tape on the nipple when exercising to minimize chafing. People who suffer a crack or wound due to friction should wash the area and apply a healing cream.

2. Hormonal changes

Women undergo constant hormonal changes throughout their menstrual cycle. The increase in progesterone and estrogen in the days before menstruation affects the mammary glands, which can cause sore nipples. Hormones cause fluid to build up in the breaststhus increasing its sensitivity.

The discomfort in the nipples appears in the days before menstruation and then disappears on its own with the arrival of it. Although the symptom is self-limited, cold compresses can be applied to the area to reduce swelling. If the pain does not go away after a few days, it will be necessary to see a doctor.

3. Pregnancy

Pregnancy is another common cause of sore nipples in women.. The mother’s breasts increase in size, especially in the last trimester, in order to produce breast milk. This growth will cause distension of the skin and, with it, multiple symptoms such as pain and itching.

The breasts can also undergo other changes during pregnancy that are important to know about. The areolas tend to darken, small bumps appear, and sensitivity increases throughout the breast.

While there is not much that can be done to ease the pain in this case, ice packs are helpful. In addition, women should apply a moisturizer at least 2 times a day, if they want to avoid the appearance of stretch marks.

4. Breastfeeding

A poor position when breastfeeding is one of the most common causes of nipple pain in women.

Breastfeeding can be a truly beautiful process in which the bond between mother and child is formed. Nevertheless, Breastfeeding can cause sore nipples when not done with proper technique according to different studies. This fact is more common during the first months, when the baby’s small mouth cannot take enough nipple and generates friction with the gums.

For its part, the pain can also appear when the child begins to teeth, since this can change the way in which it holds the nipple. Both situations can cause cracks and even bleeding. Another possible cause of pain at this stage is the use of a breast pump with a very small cup.

If you have sore nipples while breastfeeding, the best option will always be to consult with a lactation specialist. He will be able to give you the best breastfeeding techniques to avoid this symptom.

5. Allergy

As we have already mentioned, the nipples are one of the most sensitive areas of the body, which makes them prone to damage. Chemicals in detergents, soaps, and even the material of clothing can cause an allergic reaction. Nipple allergy usually manifests itself through pain, itching and redness.

Anti-inflammatory creams can help relieve symptoms in these cases. However, the definitive treatment will be to identify and eliminate the triggering agent. To do this, it is necessary to use neutral soaps, wash the area with warm water and change the laundry detergent.

6. Eczema or atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is an exaggerated autoimmune response caused by exposure to a certain allergen. In addition to sore nipples, eczema presents with allergy-like symptoms, but with greater intensity. People may have redness, intense itching, swollen nipples, and even blisters.

The list of substances capable of triggering atopic dermatitis on the nipple is very extensive. Among the main products, shaving creams, lotions, soap, detergent and perfumes stand out.

Treatment of atopic dermatitis is based on the use of corticosteroid creams.. However, the effects of prolonged use of these substances can be harmful to health, so they should only be used under the supervision of a dermatologist.

7. Infections

Infections in the mammary gland or the skin that covers it they are also a common cause of sore nipples. Infections can range from simple folliculitis or mastitis to more serious infections such as mammary candidiasis. Fortunately, the latter is a rare breast disease according to some research.

The symptoms and clinical manifestations are very varied and will depend on the severity. Redness, inflammation, pain and discharge of purulent discharge are some of the most common. Sinus infections are caused by multiple microorganisms that enter the body through small lesions.

As usual, topical treatment with specific ointments is usually sufficient. However, oral antibiotics may be necessary to control the infection.

8. Trauma

Any blow to the breasts can cause sore nipples. The most frequent injuries in the area occur during sexual contact, especially if it is done abruptly. Another common cause of trauma is the placement of a piercing on the nipple.

The pain caused by piercings It usually lasts a few weeks. During this period, it is necessary to control it with the intake of analgesics and keep the area clean to avoid infections. For its part, the pain resulting from other traumas disappear on their own after a few days without the need for medication.

9. Paget’s disease and cancer

As a last resort, Paget’s disease and other types of breast cancer may explain the onset of pain. Paget’s disease is a malignant pathology of the breast that can manifest as a metastatic focus of a tumor.

The main symptoms that accompany breast cancer are changes in the shape of the nipple, excoriations, ulcers, orange peel, yellow or bloody discharge from the nipple. In the presence of these symptoms, it is essential to consult a specialist as soon as possible.

Fortunately, breast cancer can be treated in many ways including surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. However, treatment can become more complicated as the disease progresses, so early consultation is always recommended.

If in doubt, consult your doctor

As you can see, most causes of sore nipples are benign. In this sense, the symptom should disappear on its own after a few days. However, you should always consult a specialist if the pain does not subside, worsens or is accompanied by other alarming symptoms.

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