There are many causes of nipple pain, some as simple as an allergy to laundry detergent or a bra that does not fit right. Sore nipples are also common in menstruating, pregnant, or breastfeeding people.
There are more serious causes of nipple pain, such as infections and cancer, so seeing a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment is important.
As a symptom, nipple pain differs from person to person. Some may feel their nipples are sore and tender, while others feel sharp pain or pain accompanied by itching.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
In this article, we look at some of the possible causes of nipple pain:
Friction is the most common reason for the nipples to be sore. Friction can occur if the nipples rub against a shirt or poorly-fitting bra, during sports activities, such as running, surfing, or basketball. This is known as “
Friction on the nipple can often cause soreness, a stinging pain, or even bleeding. The skin may also become dry or chapped.
Furthermore, longer periods of exercise mean extended periods of friction, too.
Nipples that have already been injured by friction, an allergic reaction, or are cracked or bleeding have a higher risk of infection. Lactation and breastfeeding
It is possible to get a yeast infection of the nipples, which is a fungal infection
A yeast infection, also known as thrush, at the nipples is often felt as a burning, stinging pain that does not go away by reducing sources of friction. The nipples may be bright pink and the areola may be reddish or flaky.
Those who breastfeed describe thrush as a sharp, hot pain that is felt immediately after the feed. Signs of the infection may also appear on their baby.
Mastitis is possible during pregnancy if milk becomes trapped in one of the milk ducts. Bacteria can start to grow in the duct and spread. This type of infection can cause a swollen, red, sore breast and nipple.
Mastitis needs to be treated with antibiotics. If it is left untreated, an abscess can form. Anyone experiencing the following symptoms, as well as nipple and breast pain, should see a doctor:
- fever or chills
- breast feeling warm to the touch
- skin redness on the breast and nipple
- irregular breast swelling
3. Allergy or atopic dermatitis
There are a variety of household products that can irritate the nipples or trigger flare-ups of existing skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis.
- body lotion
- laundry detergent
- shaving cream
- fabric softener
Other signs of an allergic reaction include red or chapped skin around the nipple and areola, and persistent itchiness. In some cases, a rash may occur.
4. Sexual contact
Sexual activity can be another cause of nipple pain. Body friction or sexual activity that involves the nipples can cause soreness. This pain is usually temporary and is often treated by simply giving the nipples time to heal.
5. Hormonal changes
The normal hormonal changes in a female’s monthly cycle
The pain associated with hormonal changes usually subsides when the period begins. If this pain continues for more than a few days, a person may want to speak to her doctor.
6. Cancer and Paget’s disease
Paget’s disease is a rare type of cancer involving the nipple that commonly occurs alongside tumors in the same breast. People with Paget’s disease and breast cancer may experience other symptoms,
- a flattened or inverted nipple
- yellowish or bloody discharge from the nipple
- itching or tingling sensations
- reddish, flaky, crusty, or scaly skin around the nipple and areola
Paget’s disease and breast cancer are diagnosed by inspecting the affected cells. While Paget’s disease is rare, anyone who is uncertain about their symptoms should see a doctor.
7. Nipple pain during pregnancy
Nipple pain or soreness may occur during pregnancy. The breasts may become larger and feel sore. The nipples and areola may darken and ache, and small bumps may pop up around the nipples.
Well-fitting support bras may help reduce friction and ease soreness. Some people find it helpful to wear a supportive sleep bra overnight or apply a cooling gel pack. These items are also helpful for reducing nipple and breast pain after the baby is born.
Breastfeeding is a
If a breast pump is used, this
An infant starting to teeth is another
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
Nipple pain caused by friction may be prevented by wearing a properly-fitted sports bra, smooth synthetic fabrics, or by using protective products, such as rash guards, nipple shields, or surgical tape. Some creams, ointments, or moisturizers may also help reduce friction.
Those who are breastfeeding are encouraged to seek the assessment and care of a lactation consultant to help their baby establish good feeding habits. Many health insurance plans cover this health need.
A topical anti-inflammatory cream
Breast cancer is
Below are some commonly asked questions about sore nipples.
What kind of breast pain indicates pregnancy?
Pregnancy can make the breasts
Why are my nipples so sore but no cycle?
A person may experience sore nipples despite not having their menstrual cycle. Common reasons for this include friction caused by clothing during exercise, an infection, eczema, or sexual contact.
How early in pregnancy are nipples sore?
Some people experience tender, swollen breasts or nipples as early as
Why do my nipples hurt for no reason?
A person’s nipples may hurt for no apparent reason if they are experiencing hormonal changes, such as during menstruation or with pregnancy. Friction can also cause sore nipples. If a person regularly experiences nipple pain and cannot identify the cause, it is best to contact a doctor for advice. Underlying causes can include infection, allergy, and more.
What hormone causes sore nipples?
During a person’s menstrual cycle, an
Common causes of sore nipples include friction caused by clothing during exercise, an infection, eczema, sexual contact, hormonal changes, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. In more serious cases, nipple pain may point to cancer or Paget’s disease.
In most cases, pain in the nipples is simple and will clear up once the cause is treated.
Anyone experiencing persistent symptoms should see their doctor to discuss diagnosis and the correct treatment.