What are Flattened Nipples?

What is a Flattened Nipple?

Some things in life are certain: the sky is blue, the grass is green, and the nipples are always turned outward, right?

Yes, definitely the first two are right, but is the nipple thing right? Maybe not. You see, while most breasts are facing outward, it’s entirely possible for some species to retract into the breast.

Sometimes your nipples may be trying to tell you something big is going on – and you better listen.

What Exactly Are Inverted Nipples?

Inverted nipples are nipples that appear to be pulled inward rather than pointing outward.

Less than 5 percent of people are born with inverted nipples, says Stephanie Downs-Canner, Assistant Professor of Oncological Thoracic Surgery at the University of North Carolina.

This can happen if the lactic ducts in your nipple – responsible for delivering milk to the surface – are shortened or not fully developed, eventually retracting from the nipple. In these cases, Downs-Canner notes that the direction of the nipples isn’t necessarily indicative of something.

However, if your nipples have always turned outward but have now suddenly turned upside down, that could be a red flag.

What Causes a Flat Nipple?

Again, if your nipples are always inverted, you’re fine.

One of the first things Downs-Canner checks for when she encounters a newly inverted nipple is the possibility of an underlying cancer. That’s why she emphasizes seeing a doctor as soon as you notice your nipple retracting to increase your chances of early detection.

But while a sudden change in your nipples is definitely something to check out, your mind shouldn’t go straight to a cancer diagnosis: “Other women may have inverted or retracted nipples if they have a lot of infection in their breasts,” says Downs-Canner.

Mastitis – basically inflammation of the breast tissue caused by breastfeeding – is one example of an infection that can cause retracted nipples, Downs-Canner said.

Another benign cause of nipple inversion: ectasia or blocked milk duct. “The ducts of the breast are often blocked, causing the obstruction to pull in,” says Downs-Canner (You can have a blocked milk duct even if you’re not breastfeeding). “This can happen to anyone.” Says Downs-Canner.

Can Inverted Nipple Be Treated?

Depending on the cause, your nipple may eventually pop out again. Downs-Canner says that after treatment for breast infection, for example, the nipples are most likely to return to their original position.

For those born with inverted nipples, Downs-Canner says it can help them recover from plastic surgery.

One more thing: When it comes to breastfeeding with inverted nipples, that too is totally doable, says Downs-Canner—may require a little more patience (and the help of a lactation consultant).

Source: Women’s Health, What Are Inverted Nipples— And What Does It Mean If You Have Them?, 2018

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