Causes and treatment of puffy nipples in men
Although they can be uncomfortable, puffy nipples rarely indicate a medical emergency.
In most cases, making dietary and exercise-related changes will help. However, if making these changes do not help, surgery may be necessary to reduce swelling and return the nipples to their previous state.
In this article, we examine the causes of puffy nipples in men. We also look at some ways to reduce their appearance.
Some causes of puffy nipples in men include hormonal imbalances, steroid use, and certain exercises.
Image credit: JMZ1122, 2009
Some possible causes of inflamed or puffy nipples in men include:
- hormonal imbalances
- steroid use
- certain exercises
- having excess body fat
However, having higher-than-normal estrogen levels can cause the mammary glands to grow, resulting in a medical condition called gynecomastia. Breast and nipple swelling usually goes away once estrogen levels return to normal.
Using anabolic steroids can lead to hormonal imbalances.
In one 2010 case study, researchers described two males who regularly used anabolic steroids. Both experienced gynecomastia, the swelling of the nipple and nearby tissue.
A person may develop swollen nipples after running or jogging for extended periods of time. The repetitive motion of running can cause friction between the skin of the nipple and the fabric of the clothing, which can lead to chafing, otherwise known as "jogger's nipple."
Excess body fat
Having excess body fat can affect the shape and appearance of the breast and nipples. If a man develops excess fat tissue in the breasts, it can make the nipples appear larger than usual.
Being overweight can also cause hormonal imbalances in men. In one 2017 study, researchers found that men with more body fat showed lower levels of testosterone and higher levels estrogen.
Reducing body fat can return hormone levels to normal and reduce breast and nipple swelling.
Doing certain chest exercises can help reduce nipple puffiness and breast swelling in men. The following exercises focus on strengthening and toning the chest muscles:
- barbell bench press
- chest press
- forward dips
- incline bench cable fly
People can include these exercises in their workout routines. Remember to use more than one chest exercise to target multiple muscles.
For people who are new to weight lifting, try doing between one and three sets of eight to 12 repetitions using light weights. Over time, gradually increase the number of sets, or increase the weight and decrease the number of sets.
Finding the perfect exercise routine can take time. People should listen to their bodies and avoid straining their muscles to the point of injury.
For maximum effect, people should also do exercises that strengthen the muscles in their back and shoulders. Strengthening these muscles can improve posture and balance out a defined chest, giving the body a symmetrical appearance.
People should also aim to add some aerobic exercise into their workout routine. Examples include:
- jumping rope
Although running and jogging can contribute to the development of puffy nipples, it is important to include some aerobic activities in each exercise routine. It may help to use nipple covers to prevent chafing in this area. Nipple covers for exercise are available to purchase online.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommend that active adults perform at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week. They also suggest doing strength training on 2 or more days per week.
A person may wish to do 15–20 minutes of cardio exercise before and after their weight lifting routine. Another option is to complete 45–60 minutes of cardio on the days between weight lifting workouts.
Eating more raw fruits and vegetables can help reduce body fat.
Having excess body fat can cause puffy nipples and other breast changes in men. To lower body fat:
- Eat more raw fruits and vegetables.
- Eat more high fiber foods, such as legumes, bran, nuts, and seeds.
- Eat fewer processed foods with added sugars.
- Limit the intake of refined carbohydrates, such as pasta, white bread, and pastries.
Men who think they may have a hormonal imbalance might want to avoid estrogen rich foods and increase their intake of testosterone rich foods.
Estrogen rich foods to avoid include:
- soy products
- split peas
- pinto beans
- lima beans
- clover sprouts
Foods that may increase testosterone levels include:
- fish and shellfish
- cruciferous vegetables
- olive oil
Men may also wish to limit their alcohol consumption. Consuming too much alcohol can affect fertility.
Also, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol use may cause increased oxidative stress, cell damage, and low testosterone.
Supplements to try
Herbal supplements may help reduce puffy nipples by boosting testosterone levels. Some of these include:
According to a 2018 review article, these antioxidants offer numerous health benefits, including:
- protecting the reproductive organs from oxidative damage
- reducing inflammation
- balancing blood sugar levels
These effects may mean that compounds in ginger root can help reduce puffy nipples that occur as a result of inflammation or hormonal imbalances.
However, these findings come from animal studies, which means that the results may not necessarily predict the same outcomes in humans.
Turmeric is another root plant. It contains a powerful compound called curcumin, which can help increase testosterone levels.
According to a recent animal study, researchers found that high doses of curcumin led to significant improvements in testosterone levels and sperm production among mice with neurotesticular dysfunction.
In one 2017 study, researchers examined the effects of an enriched fenugreek extract called Furosap in 50 male volunteers for 12 weeks.
According to their findings, 90% of the volunteers had significant increases in testosterone. The majority of volunteers also showed improvements in sperm count, mood, and mental alertness.
However, although herbal supplements may offer natural alternatives to traditional medicine, they can cause unpleasant side effects or have dangerous interactions with medications.
For this reason, it is important to consult a doctor about the potential risks that could come with taking supplements.
When might surgery be required?
Surgery may be required to treat breast conditions such as gynecomastia if making dietary and exercise-related changes does not help.
Surgical procedures to treat enlarged breasts or puffy nipples in men include:
- Liposuction: This procedure removes body fat using a small tube called a cannula, which is connected to a high pressure vacuum.
- Mastectomy: A mastectomy involves removing excess breast tissue or cancerous growths from the breast.
- Tissue excision: During this procedure, a surgeon will remove glandular breast tissue and excess skin to correct gynecomastia. The surgeon may reduce the size of the nipple for a more natural appearance.
Gynecomastia is a condition characterized by enlarged breast tissue, and it affects around 32–65% of males. Males of any age can develop gynecomastia. However, this condition occurs more often in older males.
Gynecomastia often occurs when males have elevated estrogen levels due to:
- genetics and family history
- prescription medication and illicit drug use
- kidney disease
- liver disease
- hypogonadism, or testosterone deficiency
- spinal cord conditions
- testicular tumors
- breast cancer
In addition to breast enlargement, gynecomastia can cause:
- swelling or tenderness of the breast or nipple
- unusual nipple discharge from one or both breasts
Treatments for gynecomastia vary depending on the cause.
However, the first step tends to involve managing any existing medical conditions that may lead to excess estrogen.
Medications that people use to treat breast cancer may help reduce gynecomastia symptoms.
Testosterone replacement therapy can help increase testosterone levels and reduce breast tissue growth in older males with gynecomastia.
Making dietary and lifestyle changes can also help treat gynecomastia. These can include:
- exercising more regularly
- limiting the intake of processed foods
- eating more fruits, vegetables, and other high fiber foods
- avoiding soy products
Surgery may be required if medication, diet, and lifestyle changes do not reduce the symptoms.
When to see a doctor
If a person's nipples are larger than usual, they should speak with their doctor.
Men who notice that their nipples appear larger than usual may want to speak with a doctor.
Some causes of breast swelling and gynecomastia can be serious. Early detection of such conditions can lead to better treatment outcomes, so it is important that people seek a professional medical opinion as soon as they can.
A doctor will be able to determine the underlying cause and suggest potential treatment options based on a person's individual medical history.
Breast changes affect males and females alike.
Although discussing breast-related conditions can be embarrassing or uncomfortable, people can speak to their doctor about any concerning symptoms they may be experiencing.
People who notice inflammation or pain in their nipples can make dietary and lifestyle changes to reduce these symptoms. Certain types of exercise, such as running, can cause friction that may lead to nipple chafing.
A poor diet and lack of exercise can result in excess body fat, which research has shown to increase estrogen levels. Males who have high levels of estrogen may experience abnormal breast tissue growth, which can result in a condition called gynecomastia.
People can discuss their symptoms and treatment preferences with a medical professional.