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Have you been experiencing nipple tenderness and soreness? If so, it can be a bit irritating and uncomfortable. In fact, nipple pain may accompany other signs and symptoms like breast pain, nipple discharge, breasts lump, itching or skin changes. However, there’s not much to worry about.
Nipple pain is so common that it affects all women at some point in their lives, especially when it comes to breastfeeding mothers. But that’s not the only cause behind it. And to understand what exactly causes women to experience nipple soreness, we got Dr Astha Dayal, consultant gynaecologist and obstetrics at Meddo, to enlighten us.
If you’re breastfeeding, chances are that you’re experiencing some level of pain in your nipple. Dr Dayal says, “Nipple soreness can be a common symptom, especially in breastfeeding mothers. When a baby sucks on nipples, it could lead to pain and maybe bleeding and cracked nipples.”
Remember sore nipples do not always occur during breastfeeding, but it’s most likely to happen when the baby doesn’t latch on properly.
Nipple pain can also be caused by specific disorders, particularly inflammatory disorders. Both mastitis (an infection of the milk ducts) and breast abscess (a collection of pus located in a specific area) can result in nipple pain. “Pain due to infection can cause redness, swelling, or tenderness on the touch. This needs urgent attention from your doctor,” suggests Dr Dayal.
It is most common in breastfeeding mothers, so when a baby is not latching properly, an infection might be a cause behind nipple pain.
“Other common reasons for nipple soreness among women who are not breastfeeding, could be a hormonal change. It usually happens a few days before the expected menstrual cycle, or even in early pregnancy,” says Dr Dayal.
Due to the hormone imbalance, production of estrogen and progesterone gets disturbed, resulting in nipple soreness. “A good diet and exercise regime, antioxidants, limiting caffeine, smoking and alcohol would prevent this premenstrual breast pain,” suggests the expert.
Sometimes an injury to the breast or chest wall pain (for example, a muscle pull or inflammation at the ribs) could also radiate to the breast which can also cause nipple pain, says Dr Astha.
The right bra will often help avoid future nipple irritation. Wearing a bra that doesn’t fit quite right, can rub against your nipples and irritate the skin, especially with a repeated motion like long-distance running. This causes too much friction and could make your nipples sore and bleed.
Shaving, waxing, and plucking stray nipple hair could be tempting. According to a study published by the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, using razors around the nipple area can result in infection. In addition, hair removal can also increase the risk of inflammation and cause severe pain and discomfort.
Dr Dayal says, “Some medications also may cause breast pain or nipple soreness.” Medications that are linked to an increase in nipple pain include:
Pain in the breast can be one of the symptoms of breast cancer, but it is not a confirmation of the disease. “Very rarely, nipple pain and breast soreness could also be associated with breast cancer, especially a type called inflammatory breast cancer, which is associated with redness, swelling, and tenderness. Any persistent breast soreness should be evaluated and needs a visit to your doctor,” explains Dr Dayal.