There are two words that, when said
together, can make any woman immediately cringe with discomfort: Nipple
pain. (You totally did it just now, didn’t you?)
For one, your nipples are super-sensitive
(they’re a top erogenous
zone, after all) – but there’s pain that feels good and pain that, well,
feels like pain.
So, uh, what is going on when
your nips actually hurt – and is it something to worry about?
First: Don’t freak out; there are
various lifestyle and health changes that could lead to nipple pain, and most
can easily be resolved once you figure out the culprit (i.e. throw away that
ill-fitting sports bra), but others may come with more alarming symptoms (like
nipple discharge, lumps or changes in the colour or texture of your breast
skin) that are definitely a sign to see a doctor.
Whatever the case, irritated, painful
nipples aren’t something you should have to deal with on the regular. If your
nips are feeling super uncomfortable, make an appointment with your gynae – one
of these issues might be at the root.
1. You have an infection in your nipples
Yep, your nipples can get infected.
“There are large pores and hair follicles around the nipple that can become
clogged and infected just like in your underarm or pubic areas,” says Dr Jenna
Sassie, an obstetrician/gynaecologist at Women’s Healthcare Associates in
One possible type of infection, believe
it or not, is a yeast
infection on your nipple (yes, those yeast infections).
These usually occur under the breast where sweat collects, says Sassie, but
since yeast thrives in moist, dark environments, women who regularly wear bras
made of non-breathable material might be prone to yeast infections on their
Thrush is another type of yeast
infection that’s passed on to breastfeeding mothers from their babies. Luckily,
these infections can be treated with antibiotics – for you, and if you’re
breastfeeding, for your baby too.
Nipple piercing can also lead to
infection, especially if it’s not done with good technique or cared for meticulously
afterwards, says Dr Alyssa Dweck, a gynaecologist in Westchester, New York, and
assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Mount Sinai
School of Medicine.
So if you’re considering accessorising
your girls, do your research and find a reputable tattoo and piercing parlour.
Read more: 8 nipple
symptoms that are totally normal
2. You have ‘jogger’s nipple’
If you work out regularly or are
training for a long endurance event like a marathon, experiencing chafing or
irritation from clothing such as a sports bra isn’t that uncommon.
Dr Dweck advises wearing a well-fitting,
good-quality sports bra and using an anti-chafing balm to prevent
But you don’t have to be a runner to get
“jogger’s nipple” – it can happen in everyday clothes too. “I’ve also had
patients wearing poor-fitting lace bras and such who wind up with rashes or
sensitivity because it’s rubbing the nipple all day long,” Dr Sassie says.
If that’s the case, it might be worth
going through your intimates drawer to figure out if it’s really worth keeping
some of those pretty, yet too itchy, bras around.
3. You’re experiencing hormonal changes
One of the first things you want to
consider when you first experience breast pain is whether or not you might be
“Nipple pain is sometimes the first sign
that you are expecting,” says Dr Sassie.
So if you’re not on birth control and
are not experiencing any signs of nipple irritation, you wouldn’t be crazy for
rushing out to buy a pregnancy test.
Similarly, if you stopped or started a
new birth control method or pill, are about to start your period, or are
experiencing any major hormonal fluctuations such as perimenopause,
you may experience breast and nipple pain as well, says Dr Sassie; which, while
a literal pain, is usually nothing to worry about.
Read more: 5
everyday habits that are causing your boobs to sag
4. You’re breastfeeding
A very unfortunate truth: Experiencing
pain while breastfeeding is mostly normal, for a number of reasons: your breast
pump doesn’t fit well, you have clogged milk ducts, your nipples are cracked or
your baby has latching issues.
Nipple creams can often help new moms
get some relief in those cases.
But sometimes pain during
breastfeeding isn’t normal – like with mastitis, (a.k.a. inflammation
of breast tissue). According to the American College of Obstetricians and
Gynecologists, symptoms of mastitis include breast tenderness or warmth to the
touch, breast swelling, thickening of breast tissue or a breast lump; pain or a
burning sensation while breastfeeding or during normal daily activities; and
“If you are experiencing pain while
breastfeeding and also have a fever or chills or you are generally feeling ill,
definitely visit your doctor,” Dr Sassie says.
5. You’re having an allergic reaction
If you’re experiencing itchiness or
irritation after using a new fragrance, soap, or lotion, or even laundry
detergent or fabric softener, your newfound nipple pain might be the result of
an allergic reaction.
If you have made a recent switch – and
identified that as the source of your pain – you might be better off going back
to your old favourite, or seeking out a fragrance-free or hypoallergenic
6. You started or changed a medication
“Some medications can have side effects
that cause nipple sensitivity or even discharge from the nipple,” says Dr Sassie
“These can be herbal supplements or prescriptions, especially psychiatric
drugs.” Check with your doctor if you think that’s the case.
Additionally, if you have already been
diagnosed with breast cancer, treatment such as surgery and radiation can cause
breast pain as well, says Dr Dweck.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com
Image credit: iStock