What is behind painful nipples?
If the nipples itch, hurt or secrete fluid, this worries many women. But men can also be affected, albeit much less frequently. Those who have such symptoms are easily worried that a serious disease, in the worst case breast cancer, could be behind it. What are the causes of nipple pain and breast pain, you can find out here.
Does one or both sides hurt?
There can be many reasons for painful nipples. The first thing to look for is whether only one side or both nipples are affected. Because then the possible causes can be narrowed down. Hormonal changes are usually behind it. Common causes of nipple pain are as follows:
– Growth of the breast – hormonal fluctuations – benign changes – pregnancy – breastfeeding – friction
Growth of the breast
When the breasts start to grow in young girls, the nipples may be very sensitive or painful. If both nipples are affected, this may be due to a temporary build-up of tie water. Experts advise that it is best to leave the breast alone then. However, mild cooling can definitely provide relief.
Breast pain and period
Shortly before menstruation, many women experience tender or painful breasts and nipples. This is completely normal, usually begins shortly before menstruation and disappears after a short time. Gynecologists refer to this cycle-related pain in the breast or nipples as mastodynia. Tension in the breast can also occur during menopause and sensitive nipples, because the changed hormonal situation also changes the breast gland tie. It causes the breasts to become softer and lose firmness.
Benign changes in the breast
Woman with breast pain: some conditions are benign changes despite symptoms. (Source: SIphotography/Getty Images)
Mastopathy is to be distinguished from mastodynia. This is a benign change in the breast. These include swellings, nodules or cysts, often accompanied by breasts that are very sensitive to touch and pain. The other benign and therefore harmless changes, on the other hand, are quite common in women of childbearing age. Usually both breasts are affected. The nodules that form are about the size of a cherry stone and can be moved around a bit.
"A hormonal imbalance, more precisely an excess of estrogen with a simultaneous deficiency of progesterone, is responsible for the development of mastopathy", explains the Association of Gynecologists on its website. The excess of estrogen can cause inflammation-like reactions in the tie. Painful swellings in the breast, which can radiate into the armpit, occur about a week before the period. When menopause begins, this type of discomfort ends, experts say. However, a medical examination is advisable in any case, because especially women who are affected for the first time are not able to assess the type of change in their breasts themselves.
The breast can also become inflamed, or rather the mammary glands can become inflamed. Such an inflammation of the mammary glands (mastitis) occurs mainly in breastfeeding women, usually as a result of milk stasis, but can also occur as a result of an infection, for example, in piercing wearers. Then bacteria have penetrated the nipple. The breast swells, is reddened, sometimes hardening occurs and it is very warm. If you experience these symptoms, a gynecologist should examine your breasts.
Breast pain during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Breastfeeding woman: very sensitive and slightly sore breasts are perfectly normal during pregnancy and breastfeeding. (Source: FG Trade/Getty Images)
Sensitive nipples and a feeling of tension in the nipples are very often one of the first signs of pregnancy. The test then often gives the certainty. Already in early pregnancy, the organism secretes various hormones. The remodeling work in the mother-to-be's body begins. Very sensitive and slightly aching breasts are therefore perfectly normal. If milk is let in after the birth, these symptoms are usually even stronger. Some women then have very tense breasts. If the child is breastfed regularly, preferably as needed, the discomfort usually subsides quickly.
Breast pain due to friction
One problem that also frequently causes nipple pain in men is the wrong clothing. The nipple and the areola are sensitive to touch even under normal circumstances. If they come into contact with rough fabric, they become additionally irritated and can become sore. This happens easily, especially during sports, when a sweaty T-shirt rubs against the nipples. During marathons you sometimes see men with bleeding nipples. To avoid this, you can tape your nipples with a waterproof patch before exercising.
The wrong bra can also cause nipple pain. If a seam goes right over the nipple or the bra doesn't fit properly, it can quickly become uncomfortable.
Breast pain in men
But it's not just women who can suffer from breast or nipple pain. If the problem occurs in a man, he should also see a gynecologist. This may sound surprising at first, but there is no equivalent specialist alternative to gynecologists – they are the experts for all breast-related problems in women AND men. From the age of 50, women in Germany are invited to have a mammogram every two years.
When to go to the doctor with nipple pain
If the pain comes on suddenly and you don't see any reason for it, you should always go to the doctor in any case, because this provides clarity and you don't worry unnecessarily. Many women are afraid of a malignant ulcer in case of nipple pain. However, in most cases this is unfounded. If the pain is severe or persistent. However, in the case of nodule formation, you should be examined by a doctor. Even if a secretion comes out of the nipples outside of pregnancy or breastfeeding, the cause should be clarified by a doctor. After weaning, however, the breasts may continue to produce milk for a long time.
Breast X-ray:Detect or rule out breast cancer by mammography
Help with menopausal symptoms:Breast pain during menopause
Frustration with the bust:How breasts change due to pregnancy
Possible diseases of the breast include mastitis, an abscess, a benign tumor or, in comparatively rare cases, breast cancer (breast carcinoma).