Bumps on or around the nipple may not have its word out there but is apparently a common condition for both men and women. Many people ask why they have bumps on the areola or the nipple and whether it is something to worry about. Is it normal to have bumps around the nipple? And does it occur in men?
The answer depends on the situation you are in. You will notice as you read through this article that it is physiological to have bumps on the areola and the nipple when a woman is pregnancy or breastfeeding.
This is a process that is strategically placed to allow efficient production of sebum for purposes of providing a mild antiseptic. It is also normal to get some of these changes in adolescents of both sexes. However, there are pathologies that may deem bumps on the areola and the nipple abnormal or a disease.
Some of the conditions that are pathologies include sub-areolar abscesses, infected piercing of the nipple or cancerous growths as seen with breast cancer. It could be an early sign of breast cancer.
It is therefore prudent that you check with your doctor to have bumps on nipples or the areola investigated.
Why do I have bumps on my nipples-Is it normal?
Is it normal to have bumps on your nipples?
When you have bumps on your nipples, it is worth checking them out. Especially when they are either recurrent or recalcitrant. It should not however be a cause of alarm when you see so.
The best way to deal with such bumps is to get a consultation and have it checked out. Women have probably more information about what is normal and what’s not about their breast and the nipples and may understand that pregnancy leads to changes in the nipple.
Therefore, it may be normal to them. So yeah, there are times when it is normal. It is also normal to observe some of these changes during puberty as your body takes a surge of hormones.
Some of the common causes of bumps around the nipple include:
These are normal glands that secret oil on the areola. Everyone has them. The only reason they will become eminent is when they increase in number such as observed during pregnancy or when they enlarge.
You may have bacterial or fungal infections. Bacterial infections can be brought about by piercings of the nipple that are not well taken care of.
It could be that you underwent a piercing of the nipple in an unprofessional parlor or you didn’t do a proper after-care.
Infections that could arise are dire and serious and may involve pathogens such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus.
Fungal infections are commonly Candida albicans and arise when there is a conducive environment for the growth of the fungi. Such includes a warm and moist condition brought about when you do not dry your nipples well and wearing tight clothing.
Itchiness and redness are signs of a fungal infection; so are bumps arising from the same. Sub-areolar abscesses may occur in women with mastitis.
Mastitis could be related to breastfeeding when one breast is breastfed on more than the other. They appear as tender lumps under the Montgomery’s glands (areola)
t could be acneiform eruptions. They typically occur anywhere on the body; the nipples too! When on the nipples, they could be whiteheads.
Whiteheads are basically due to an accumulation of sebum underneath the skin due to clogged up pores and hair follicles and are painful to touch. Acneiform eruptions occur in women during their period and also in those who work out a lot.
A condition that occurs in both men and women. Early signs of breast cancer could involve appearance of a lump underneath the areola and the nipple.
In women who are not breastfeeding or pregnant, and with a lump under these areas, may have to go for a mammogram to elucidate the possibility of breast cancer as a diagnosis. Most are times, the lumps in breast cancer produce pus or some other discharge.
Those who do not maintain an optimum level of cleanliness have a higher predisposition of infections and whiteheads. Not washing undergarments could also lead to bumps or lumps on the nipples.
Washing your body and scrubbing it well also allows you to remove debris of dead skin that is the culprit behind clogged-up pores of the skin that eventually causes whiteheads.
These form white spots on the nipple. They are lumps that are milk-filled. Milk blisters are painful during breastfeeding. It may grow large as the baby suckles on the breast. Its source is exertion of pressure on the tip of the nipple of a single breast by the baby. If the baby is not well latched, it could lead to such blisters.
The nipples may get injured when your baby bites it during breastfeeding. Pimples may arise from this and so will lumps and bruises. The bruises may be infected to form infected bumps or lumps.
Poorly chosen clothing
These may range from bras to blouses or t-shirts. When the fabric you have chosen sucks up the moisture from the breast, it would help in relieving the skin of the sweat produced. It is therefore less probable that the skin will get clogged up and whiteheads won’t form.
However, fabrics such as nylon and others that do not do so, would lead to retention of moisture and an increased possibility of bumps and lumps around the nipple.
The size of such clothing is also important. For instance, during the selection of a bra, getting one that is tightly fitting increases the risk of developing bumps around your nipples.
This is due to the fact that there will be reduced room for aeration which your skin needs. When the Montgomery’s glands are obstructed, sebum will accumulate and harbor the acneiform bacteria, P. acnes.
As milk production is optimally stimulated during breastfeeding, the milk ducts could get clogged up. The same applies to an overproduction of milk. Pimples or small bumps may form on the areola in such instances.
White & Red Bumps around Nipple
Different colors may characterize the bumps forming on your nipples. This depends on the causal factor. White bumps on the nipples could be whiteheads and whiteheads are commonly caused by clogging of the hair follicles and the pores on the skin.
Therefore, this leads to an accumulation of sebum along with dirt and other toxins meant to be eliminated by excretion. They are painful and pus-filled, later opening into blackheads that are brown or black in color.
The same applies to areolar glands which may appear as white pimples.
When squeezed, they produce some white-colored sebum and is a common feature among pregnant women. A fine example is the Montgomery tubercle bumps which produce pus when popped. In addition to this, they are painful when touched.
Red inflamed bumps are blood filled pimples on the nipple or a manifestation of a dermatitis. The enlargement of the Montgomery’s glands during pregnancy and breastfeeding also result in red or pink-colored bumps.
Nipple piercing bump
Piercing can cause bumps on the nipple. It does not necessarily need to occur just after the piercing procedure due to improper after-care but can also occur years after the procedure.
According to the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, the piercing predisposes women to recurrent abscess.
The bump is tender and painfully inflamed under the portion of the breast known as the areolar. The abscess is basically a localized collection of pus. When it is minute, it is known as a pustule and when diffuse, cellulitis or erysipelas develop.
When the piercing causes an abscess after more than 2 weeks, then it is a chronic abscess, while that that develops within the course of a few days or hours, acute.
Further, the aforementioned journal reports that recurring abscesses are growing in number due to the increased exposure to the risk factors such as smoking and increased life expectancy hence increase in age.
This condition is serious and will require that a surgical intervention be instituted so as to treat it.
Female-Pregnant and when Not pregnant
How are the little white bumps related to pregnancy?
There are many changes that occur in a woman when pregnant. One of these changes is an increase in the oily secretions similar to the work done by sebaceous glands on the scalp. This keeps the areolar well reduced of friction and to moisturize it along with provide some antiseptic properties to the areolar.
You will find this important once you have a baby as the baby needs to be protected from pathogens that may be on your breast when suckling.
Therefore, during pregnancy, the Montgomery’s glands, otherwise known as the areolar glands experience an increase in the sebaceous secretions and so does the Montgomery’s tubercles.
They will appear as tiny bumps no the skin of the areolar and the nipple and their visibility will be increased when the nipple is stimulated.
Normally, these glands are in numbers of 4 on its lowest end but may increase to close to 30 in the mentioned special circumstances.
Is it a sign of pregnancy?
Montgomery’s tubercles can be a sign of pregnancy along with other signs. They need to go hand in hand for certainty.
Fortunately, most women have mentioned this feature as one of their first signs of pregnancy while others later on.
Remember that these changes are preparing the mother for the baby’s suckling. Along with the appearance of the tubercles, there will be darkening as well as enlargement of the areolas.
Other early signs of pregnancy include:
- Missed period
- Fatigue as you get drained of some nourishment and rising hormonal levels
- Breasts that are tender and swollen with the rise of progesterone and estrogen.
- Cravings for food and non-food items during the first trimester.
- Spotting or bleeding
- Morning sickness due to the enhanced reception by olfactory receptors and increase in the acidity of the stomach.
Bumps on areola not pregnant indication
There are instances when bumps on the areola, Montgomery’s tubercles, are not a sign of pregnancy. Here are some of the instances:
- Stress which makes hormonal levels change
- Hormonal imbalance
- Menstrual periods
The reason there occurs bumps on the nipples during these times, is due to the fact that the bumps are always present and you will only notice them when they are more pronounced, enlarged and increased in population. With this feature alongside other signs of a pregnancy, then it is likely that you are pregnant.
It is also worth noting that early signs of breast cancer has this feature.
It is normal to have Montgomery’s glands and hence the bumps when breastfeeding. This is important for the production of the sebum which has antiseptic properties and will help in disinfecting the areola and the nipple when the baby is breastfeeding.
Small, Painful & Itchy
What does size (small/big), pain and itching indicate?
The size of a lump on the nipple or around it could give you or the doctor some insight on the causal agent. By looking at the size of the bump, you could easily tell if it is a whitehead, milk blister or a cancerous growth.
When you talk of small lumps, you may be referring to less severe cases though infections start small and end up complicating into larger infected areas. A good example is whiteheads forming boils and abscesses.
Therefore, the size of the bump should not be an obvious indicator of the seriousness of the lump and should not be underestimated.
Whenever there’s an infection, milk blister, acne or an injury, pain is present. Infections are especially painful on touching (tender). You may have to realize the pain associated with a milk blister or injury during suckling/breastfeeding.
Yeast infections such C. albicans are however associated with itchiness and you may feel like scratching your nipple or the areolar region. Such practice may however lead to a secondary bacterial infection and may be painful.
When men came to realize that cancer is not for women only, much has been done to educate men on how to recognize early signs of breast cancer. At the end of the day, men too have breasts.
If you are a man, here are some signs that you can be watchful for:
- A lump on the nipple and areola
- Redness of the nipple and the skin of the breast
- Discharge from nipple
- The nipple may retract or turn inward
- Puckering or dimpling of the skin of the breast.
However, when boys are in puberty, some changes may occur that may force you to tend on the possibility of breast cancer. Normally, at this age, there occurs a small bump that is tender beneath the nipple and areola.
How to get rid of bumps on nipples
The treatment will obviously depend on the cause of the bumps on your nipples. Many instances require that you simply do some watchful waiting. If they are not gone within a few days, then you can seek some medical advice. Same applies to you when the bumps are recurrent.
You may get a prescription with any of the following drugs:
- Antibiotics for an infection such as that occurring after a nipple piercing. Such may include antifungals and antibacterials.
- Draining of the subareolar abscess of an infected tissue. Antibiotics will be prescribed so as to prevent secondary infections. If the abscess is recalcitrant, then you may have to undergo a surgical excision of the glands.
- Breast cancer may be diagnosed using a mammogram and a biopsy and treatment such as chemotherapy, surgical excision of the tumor or mastectomy may be recommended.
There are ways you could prevent some of these bumps:
- Maintain a good hygiene. When you have a piercing, ensure that you clean it routinely with some alcohol or surgical spirit. Take a shower after a work-out.
- Keep the nipples clean and dry to prevent fungal infections.
- Do clothing that is loosely fitting.
- If you are breastfeeding, you need to wash your hands with antibacterial soap before and after nursing, allow the baby to feed for shorter times but frequently and do so from both breasts equally. This will help you prevent mastitis. When you are done with breastfeeding, empty your breast to prevent blockage of areola ducts.