The 8 reasons your nipples are painful – and when you must see a doctor | The Sun

MANY a breastfeeding mum has suffered with sore nipples from feeding their tots.

But you don't have feeding a baby to experience nipple pain.

The reasons behind it can be relatively benign – but something like an infection or even cancer can make your boobs feel tender.

Here are eight reasons why your nipples might be sore and when you should be worried.

1. Friction

Friction is one of the most common causes of sore nipples.

Anything from a rough t-shirt or to a poorly fitting bra could behind it, and you're more likely to get some friction during sports activities such as running, surfing or basketball, according to Medical News Today.

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You'll know friction is the cause of your nipple pain if they're sore and stingy. Your skin may also get dry or chapped.

You can take some extra precautions if you're exercising lots and your nips are sensitive to friction by covering them in surgical tape.

2. Infection

If your nipples are cracked and bleeding, you've had some allergic reaction, or you're lactating or breastfeeding, they'll be more sensitive to infection.

You can get a yeast infection in your nipples if the surrounding tissue has been damaged, you have a history of fungal infections or you've recently used antibiotics.

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Also known as thrush, a yeast infection causes burning, stinging pain that doesn't go away by reducing sources of friction. Your nipples may be bright pink and the areola – the circular disk of skin surrounding your nipple – may be reddish or flaky.

If you're breastfeeding, thrush might manifest as a sharp, hot pain immediately after giving your tot milk.

Another reason for your pain could be mastitis, when milk becomes trapped in one of the milk ducts during pregnancy, causing bacteria to grow in it.

This'll land you with swollen, red and sore breasts and nipples.

Mastitis needs to be treated with antibiotics, as an abscess can from if left untreated.

3. Allergies or eczema

Pain and irritation accompanied by flaky, crusty, or blistering skin may be a sign of an allergic reaction or eczema.

You might need to assess products you're using if you're experiencing this, as they could be triggering flare ups or irritation in your nipples.

Products include:

  • body lotion
  • laundry detergent
  • soap
  • shaving cream
  • fabric softener
  • perfume
  • fabrics

Other signs of an allergic reaction include red or chapped skin around your nipple and areola, and persistent itchiness. You might also get a rash.

Anti-inflammatory cream can ease some of the soreness, but you should speak to a GP if the rash or redness increases, spreads, and doesn't respond to an over-the-counter treatment.

4. Hormonal changes

You might also notice your nipples grow more tender at certain times of the month, meaning they're influenced by hormonal changes in your cycle.

They're most likely to be painful just before your period starts, as spiking oestrogen and progesterone levels can draw more liquid to your boobs and make them feel heavier.

If the pain doesn't subside more than a few days after your period starts, you could speak to your GP about it.

5. Sex

Friction to your nipples can also be an issue during sexual contact, causing some soreness.

Your nips should be right as rain once you give them some time to heal.

You can also pop on some moisturiser or nipple guards pre-romp to avoid them feeling too sore.

6. Pregnancy

One of the most common markers of pregnancy is sore breasts, accompanied by darker and achy areolas.

A well fitting bra will be your best friend in this case, to help support your heavier boobs and reduce friction.

Some also choose to wear a supportive bra at night and you can also apply cooling gel packs to soothe inflamed nips.

7. Breastfeeding and pumping

If your baby doesn't have enough breast in its mouth when feeding, your nipple might be up against its gums and hard palate.

Babies should latch deep on the breast with the nipple at the back of the throat, Medical News Today said.

If a baby presses the nipple too hard between their gums and the roof of their mouth, it can restrict blood flow to the nipple. This can result a vasospasm, which is painful and causes the nipple to turn white, then red, then purple in quick succession.

A teething baby might even bite your nipple, making things even sorer – you can encourage them to take more of the breast into their mouth, so they don't bite down as easily.

A breast pump can also cause you some nipple pain, if the suction is too strong or the nipple shield doesn't fit well.

8. Cancer

Finally, one possible cause behind your sore nipples could be cancer, though tumours don't usually cause breast pain.

Nipple pain caused by cancer will often only affect one breast and nipple.

Symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • a new lump or area of thickened tissue in either breast that was not there before
  • a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
  • a discharge of fluid from either of your nipples
  • a lump or swelling in either of your armpits
  • a change in the look or feel of your skin, such as puckering or dimpling, a rash or redness
  • a rash (like eczema), crusting, scaly or itchy skin or redness on or around your nipple
  • a change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast

You should speak to a GP if you notice these kinds of changes to your breasts and get used to checking them yourself.

Paget's disease of the nipple – also known as Paget's disease of the breast – is a rare condition associated with breast cancer, which affects one to four per cent of sufferers, according to the NHS.

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It causes an eczema-like red, scaly rash on the skin of the nipple and areola. It's usually a sign of breast cancer in the tissue behind the nipple.

The affected skin is often sore and inflamed, and it can be itchy or cause a burning sensation. 

How can I check my own boobs for lumps?

Everybody’s boobs are different in terms of size, shape and consistency.

One of your breasts can be bigger than the other, and the way they feel could change at different times of the month.

For example, you might have tender and lumpy breasts, especially near the armpit, around the time of your period.

And after the menopause, they might feel softer, less firm and not as lumpy.

The NHS recommends you get used to these changes so you can recognise when something doesn't look or feel normal for you.

You should look at your boobs and feel each one, from your armpit up to your collarbone.

You may find it easiest to do this in the shower or bath, by running a soapy hand over each breast.

You should:

  • feel around the breast in a circular motion
  • feel under your arm
  • feel behind the nipple

You can also look at your breasts in the mirror. Look with your arms by your side and also with them raised.

If you notice anything that isn't normal for you, speak to your GP.

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