Bumps on the nipples tend to be normal. However, they can also appear due to certain medical conditions. Although the cause is not always something to be concerned about, there are some scenarios that may warrant medical attention.
The causes and symptoms of the bumps can depend on their location. For example, bumps can appear on the:
- areola, which is the darker area of skin surrounding the nipple
- nipple, which is at the center of the darker area
- skin around the breast
This article will look at why a person may develop bumps on their nipples, including during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Areolar glands, or Montgomery glands, are present in the areola. The raised bumps a person may notice on the areola are part of the glands.
According to the National Health Service (NHS), these are normal. They produce an oily fluid that helps keep the nipple moist and protected. This can be especially important during breastfeeding, and it helps protect the nipple from bacteria.
Areolar glands are also present in males.
They are completely normal and do not require treatment.
Acne can appear on the nipples, areolas, and skin around the breast. A pimple occurs when sebum and dirt block the pores.
People may experience acne due to the following triggers:
- experiencing hormonal changes
- using certain cosmetic products
- taking certain medications
- regularly wearing items that apply pressure to an affected area
A pimple will typically resolve spontaneously. However, if the acne is persistent, a person can try a variety of treatment options.
Folliculitis is a common infection that develops in a person’s hair follicles. It can affect any part of the body, except for the soles of the feet and the palms of the hand.
The American Academy of Dermatology state that it looks similar to an acne breakout. A person may also experience itching or pain.
It can occur due to:
- touching or rubbing the skin
- wearing tight clothing
Folliculitis will typically resolve spontaneously if a person avoids the trigger.
However, a person can apply a warm compress to the skin three to four times per day for 15–20 minutes.
An ingrown hair occurs when a hair grows back into the skin. When this happens, a person may notice raised, flushed, itchy spots.
If these spots are infected, a person may see pus in them.
Ingrown hairs will typically resolve spontaneously. However, a person should keep an eye on them in case they become infected.
Nipple dermatitis, or nipple eczema, can cause a scaly rash. A person may also experience irritation and itchiness.
Although it typically affects female teenagers, it can also affect infants, children, and older adults.
Nipple dermatitis can occur as a result of a reaction to certain products or fabrics, such as new soaps or laundry detergents.
Some people may need a course of topical steroids.
To help prevent the eczema from recurring, a person should try to avoid the irritant or allergen that initially caused the reaction.
Breast cysts are benign, which means that they are not cancerous.
A person may not require any treatment for a breast cyst. However, it is always best to have a doctor check any new breast lumps. They will be able to assess the lump and determine whether or not any further action is necessary.
If the cyst is large or causing pain, a healthcare professional may remove the fluid from the cyst using a fine needle and a syringe.
A fibroadenoma is a noncancerous condition that causes a growth of tissue in the breast. Fibroadenomas are smooth to the touch and will move easily under the skin. They are normally painless, though they may feel tender.
Fibroadenomas are more common in females during their 20s and 30s, but they can occur at any age.
Most fibroadenomas do not require any treatment and usually stay the same size or, over time, disappear completely.
A person may need surgery to remove the fibroadenoma if it is large.
Breast lumps can be an early symptom of breast cancer, though they may not present as bumps on the nipple.
Some other possible symptoms of breast cancer include:
- skin changes around the breast, including puckering or dimpling
- color changes, such as the breast looking flushed
- nipple discharge
- sunken or inverted nipples
- peeling, scaling, or flaking of the skin on the nipple or breast
- a change in the size or shape of the breast
Treatment will depend on the diagnosis and the type of breast cancer a person has.
Paget’s disease is a rare type of breast cancer. Although it is more prevalent in females, it can affect anyone.
It occurs when cancer cells start to collect in the nipple or areola. However, doctors do not yet fully know what causes Paget’s disease of the nipple.
Some symptoms of Paget’s disease of the nipple include:
- itching and tingling sensations in the nipple, which can also extend to the areola
- flaky, crusty, or thickened skin that may also look inflamed
- yellow or bloody discharge from the nipple
A healthcare professional will perform a biopsy to diagnose Paget’s disease of the nipple. This involves removing some cells or tissue from the affected breast and examining the sample under a microscope.
Treatment may vary depending on:
- the stage of the tumor
- the degree of malignancy
- the size of the tumor
- the presence or absence of metastatic disease
- the person’s age and general health
According to the NHS, experiencing changes to the nipples and breasts is common during pregnancy.
Many people may feel their nipples and breasts become more tender. They may also feel a tingling sensation in the nipples. This is likely due to the increase in hormones, such as progesterone, and the milk ducts in the breasts becoming larger.
The areolar glands may also get larger, so the bumps on the nipples may become more prominent.
During pregnancy, a person may notice lumps forming. These include cysts and fibroadenomas, but they can also include galactoceles. Galactoceles are similar to cysts, but they are filled with milk rather than any other fluid.
Bumps on the nipples can also develop during breastfeeding.
For example, the milk ducts in the breasts can become blocked and lead to the formation of noticeable bumps on and around the nipples. These are small and feel like hard lumps. They can also feel painful.
To help relieve blocked milk ducts, a person can feed the baby more often and gently massage the lump while doing so.
Some other causes of bumps on the nipples during breastfeeding include:
Thrush, which is a type of yeast infection, can also occur on the nipples.
A person may notice:
- nipples that feel itchy or burn
- flushed, shiny nipples and areolas that have a rash with small blisters
- shooting pains in the breast after or during feeding
Treatment typically includes topical antifungal creams.
Milk blisters, or milk blebs, are small white spots that appear when the nipple pores become blocked due to shallow sucking, an improper latch, or breastfeeding at the wrong angle.
A healthcare professional will examine the breasts and nipples to diagnose the cause of the bumps. If the bumps require more investigation, the doctor may refer the person to a breast clinic.
If this occurs, it does not necessarily mean that there is a reason to worry. It may just be that a person requires specialist tests to diagnose any condition they may have.
Tests at a breast clinic may include scans, such as a mammogram or an ultrasound scan. Specialists may also remove cells or tissue from the affected area and examine the sample under a microscope.
A person should see a doctor if they notice any unusual changes to their breasts and nipples, including any new bumps.
There are several potential causes of bumps on or around the nipples. Many causes are benign and will resolve spontaneously.
If a person notices anything unusual relating to their breasts or nipples, they should see a doctor as soon as possible.