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  • Writer's pictureShruti GOCHHWAL

Inverted Nipples: Causes, Treatment and Pictures

Inverted nipples refer to nipples that point inwards instead of outwards. Sometimes, it is also referred to as retracted nipples. However, there is a slight difference between both of them. If your nipples are retracted, it means that only a part of it (usually the tip) turns inward. But an inverted nipple means the whole nipple being pulled inward.

When a nipple is inverted, it lays flat against the dark-coloured skin that surrounds a nipple called the areola. The nipple may also point inwards instead of outwards. Some people are born with inverted nipples. This kind of nipple can also get developed later on in the lives of people. Inverted nipples are relatively common in both men and women. It is not a rare phenomenon as you might think. People may have a slight retraction or nipple pulling inward in either or both of their nipples.

This condition can make people feel awkward as they might feel uncomfortable with the appearance of their nipples. However, such nipples are not at all something to worry about except in rare circumstances. Another major concern when it comes to inverted nipples among women is that they generally think it might interfere with breastfeeding. But this is not always the case, at least in most cases. It does not cause any disturbance to the baby in drinking the breast milk. They can easily do so by latching onto the entire areola region.

Something worth mentioning here is that those people who are born with inverted nipples should not be worried over it. It in no way signifies that something is wrong with your health or that you are suffering from an underlying health condition. You should not be bothered by the appearance of your nipples. However, if at any stage of your life, you find your nipples turning inward at a rapid pace, then it is best to consult your doctor as soon as possible. Nipples retract very slowly, and it takes a considerable period of time for them to become inverted. If you are finding that your nipples are turning inward in only a few weeks, then you should not ignore it.

What Causes Inverted Nipples?

inverted nipples

Woman seeking medical help, Credit: Pixabay

Usually a person has inverted nipples since birth. Doctors call this congenital inversion. It can occur in both men and women and usually affects both the sides. One of the major causes of a nipple being inverted is the presence of adhesions below them. It results in tight connective tissues. Did you know that this condition is actually extremely common? Approximately 10-20 percent of women have inverted nipples.

As mentioned before, inverted nipples is a cause for concern for those who develop them later in life. It is also termed as acquired nipple inversion.

The causes of a nipple being inverted include the following:

  1. Breast cancer

  2. Fibrocystic breast disease

  3. Duct ectasia, that is, when a milk duct widens and its walls thicken. It leads to the duct being filled with fluid and eventually getting clogged.

  4. Periductal mastitis, that is, the swelling and subsequent infection of a milk duct that is clogged. It is usually a consequence of duct ectasia.

  5. The loss of fat tissues in the nipples. It can be because of a recent surgery.

  6. Tuberculosis that can affect the breast because it is primarily an infection of the lungs.

Severity of Nipple Inversion

inverted nipples

Woman showing breast cancer sign, Credit: Pixabay

Depending on the severity of inversion, inverted nipples can be classified into three grades:

  1. Grade 1 – here the nipple can be easily pulled out by the individuals themselves. Its projection is not disturbed.

  2. Grade 2 – the person is able to pull the nipple out with some difficulty. He or she may find out that their nipples have the tendency to retract.

  3. Grade 3 – the pulling of nipples becomes impossible. The nipples retract very fast, as soon as you press them outward.

Breastfeeding may become impossible if your nipple inversion falls in grade 2 or 3 category. Women who have grade 1 nipple inversion do not encounter any issues with breastfeeding. Surgery as a treatment is recommended if you have grade 3 nipple inversion. For grade 1 and 2, non-invasive treatments work pretty well.

Can You Treat the Condition of Inverted Nipples?

inverted nipple treatment

Woman in treatment, Credit: Pixabay

Many people who have inverted nipples desire to get rid of it due to aesthetic concerns. Apart from aesthetic reasons, another major cause for women wanting to get rid of it is its interference with breastfeeding. There are quite a few treatment options presently available for this condition. They include:

  1. Hoffman’s technique, which is essentially an exercise that is performed by the individual to draw out his or her nipple. In order to do it, you need to put your thumbs on the sides of your nipples at its base. Now press them into your breast and gently separate them. Over time, it will cause the nipple to protrude. In order to gain results from it, you need to perform this exercise every day.

  2. Suction devices are a non-invasive way to enable your nipples to protrude.

  3. People can also use piercing to help their nipple remain in an erect position.

  4. Surgical procedures to alter the appearance of the nipple and help it protrude is seen as the only option when nothing else works.

If you are someone having grade 1 inverted nipples then you can use a non-surgical method like a suction cup. It is readily available at drugstores and is a good way to stop your nipple retraction. What it actually does is stretch the milk ducts over a prolonged period of time. It allows the nipples to come out eventually. Alternatively women having grade 1 nipple inversion can also make use of a breast pump which also works in a similar manner.

Women having grade 2 nipple inversion find it more difficult to maintain the normal projection of their nipples. They can also find it beneficial to use a suction cup.

Effect of inverted nipples on your sensitivity

You might think that those having inverted nipples may lose their sensitivity. However, it is not the case. Inverted nipples do not impact sensitivity in any way. It is safe to assume that the sensitivity level of a person with inverted nipples and one with protruding nipples is the same.

When Should You Seek Medical Help?

inverted nipple

Woman seeking medical help, Credit: Pixabay

As mentioned before, in more than 50 percent of the cases, having inverted nipples is not a cause for concern. It is especially true for the majority of men and women who are born with them. However, inverted nipples can point to a serious health condition, especially in women if they notice it suddenly. Due attention should be given to the fact that developing this condition over a small period of time is not normal. Reach out to your medical professional if you or someone close to you is experiencing their nipples retracting at a rapid pace.

In most cases, people having inverted nipples lead a perfectly healthy and normal life. They do not find this condition interfering with any sensitivity or breastfeeding issues. Non-invasive methods of treatment can be effectively utilised by those people who have grade 1 and grade 2 nipple inversion. Surgery is also another option that has surfaced as a  permanent cure for this condition.

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