Newly Inverted Nipples: What Are the Causes? When Should You See a Doctor?

Health Education
4 min read
Newly Inverted Nipples: What Are the Causes? When Should You See a Doctor?

Inverted nipples are a condition in which the entire nipple points inward instead of outward. It is common for women and men to have this condition with either one or both of their nipples. Nipple retraction, a condition where only part of the nipple turns inward, is also possible.

Typically, this condition is only a cosmetic issue and does not cause any medical problems. However, some women with inverted nipples may have a difficult time breastfeeding. If your nipples have always had this appearance, it is usually not a sign of any medical issue. But if you have recently discovered this problem, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as breast cancer.

What Causes Inverted Nipples?

You may be wondering what causes this issue and how to fix inverted nipples. Inverted nipples are often congenital, meaning they have been present since birth. This condition may result from milk ducts that do not fully develop or because the nipple base remained small while in the womb. 

Nipple inversion can occur in both males and females and often affects both sides instead of just one. Tight connective tissue or other issues with the nipple's ductal system cause it.

Although many people have inverted or retracted nipples since birth, they can also occur late in life. That is known as acquired nipple inversion or retraction. Its causes, which range from mild to severe, can include the following:

  • Breast cancer, which can include a rare form known as Paget’s disease,
  • Fibrocystic breast disease
  • Duct ectasia is the widening of a milk duct and the thickening of the walls. It can be a result of the duct filling with fluid and becoming clogged.
  • Trauma or surgery can result in scarring or loss of fat in the affected area.
  • Periductal mastitis, inflammation, and infection of a clogged milk duct are often caused by duct ectasia.

Treatment for Inverted Nipples

Inverted or retracted nipples are some of the most common breast cancer signs. However, having inverted nipples does not automatically mean you have breast cancer. For many people, this condition does not cause any medical problems. While it can make breastfeeding difficult for mothers, some strategies can help work around the challenge. Consider working with a lactation consultant. Women who breastfeed with inverted nipples can sometimes improve their nipple elasticity and resolve the inverted issue.

Various forms of treatment are available for those who want to correct their inverted nipples for cosmetic reasons. Applying pressure using breast shields can sometimes gradually draw the nipple back to its natural form. There are some suction devices available that will resolve the problem within a matter of weeks.

When to See a Doctor

If you notice a sudden change in the appearance of your nipples, you should consult with your doctor as soon as possible. While it is common for the breasts to change in appearance over time or after breastfeeding, newly inverted nipples are common symptoms of breast cancer. Because there is a higher risk of breast cancer as you age, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor as soon as you notice any changes in your breasts or nipples.

If you have concerns about breast cancer symptoms, get in touch with the BASS Medical Group. Our medical professionals can perform lab tests and provide consultations when you need them most. Contact us today for more details.

Can piercing nipples help correct the inversion of flat or inverted nipples?

Piercing nipples is believed by some to assist in correcting the inversion of flat or inverted nipples. The rationale behind this idea is that nipple piercings can help protrude the nipples more prominently by maintaining them in an erect position. However, it is essential to understand that this method may not be effective for everyone and can potentially increase the risk of infection. Moreover, the nipple-piercing process can be quite painful. 

If you plan to breastfeed in the future, we advise against getting nipple piercings. Consult a healthcare specialist to fully understand the associated risks and benefits before considering nipple piercing as a solution for inverted nipples.

How can one reduce the risk of flat or inverted nipples?

To reduce the risk of flat or inverted nipples, it's important to note that these conditions are often congenital and cannot be prevented. However, to decrease the risk of associated issues like periductal mastitis or infections, avoiding smoking is crucial. Studies have linked tobacco use to nipple inversion and chronic breast tissue infections. Therefore, refraining from smoking can be a proactive step toward reducing the risk of complications related to flat or inverted nipples.

How do healthcare providers diagnose flat or inverted nipples?

 Healthcare providers diagnose flat or inverted nipples by conducting a physical examination to determine if there are any lumps or bumps. Additionally, they may recommend various tests to rule out other potential conditions. 

These tests typically include a mammogram, breast ultrasound, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), and needle biopsy to check for the presence of cancer cells. By carefully assessing the physical characteristics and performing the necessary tests, healthcare providers can effectively diagnose flat or inverted nipples and determine if further medical intervention is required.

How common are flat and inverted nipples?

Flat or inverted nipples are quite common, with about 10% to 20% of the general population experiencing this nipple variation.

What are flat and inverted nipples?

Flat nipples are those that are level with the surrounding breast tissue, not protruding outward. On the other hand, inverted nipples are those that point inward towards the breast rather than projecting outward. Both flat and inverted nipples are typically considered harmless variations of normal breast anatomy.

Do inverted nipples ever go away on their own?

Inverted nipples don't usually go away on their own.

What short-term and long-term solutions are available for addressing inverted nipples based on their causes and severity?

A provider can discuss short-term and long-term solutions based on the causes and grade of inversion of the nipples, which may include surgical options or techniques like the Hoffman technique.

What is the Hoffman technique for training inverted nipples outward?

One can inquire with a provider about the Hoffman technique, which is an option for training the nipple outward.

What are the surgical options for correcting inverted nipples?

If you are concerned about the appearance of inverted nipples, You can speak with one of our specialists at the BASS medical group to talk about surgical options.