Eczema is a condition that causes areas of itchy skin with a rash-like appearance. It can appear anywhere on the body, including on the nipples.
Eczema can cause red, scaly rashes around the nipple that can be itchy. In some cases, more serious conditions may look similar to nipple eczema.
This article discusses what eczema is, how it affects the nipples, and other conditions that are similar to nipple eczema.
Eczema refers to a group of skin conditions that affect 1 in 10 people and cause areas of itchy, inflamed skin. Irritants and allergens can cause eczema symptoms.
It can occur at any age and appear anywhere on the skin, including the nipples. Symptoms of nipple eczema affect each person differently and vary in severity.
Nipple eczema develops on the areola, which is the area of dark skin surrounding the nipple. People with nipple eczema may notice an itchy, scaly, or dry rash around one or both nipples. The skin may also swell, ooze, or feel rough and leathery.
People with eczema typically find the affected skin mild to moderately itchy. The nipples are more sensitive than other areas where people might experience eczema, such as the elbows. This might make the symptoms more intense.
Nipple eczema may occur on its own or with other patches of affected skin around the body.
Nipple eczema can occur in anyone, but primarily affects lactating parents due to contact with irritants or allergens, such as:
- friction from the child’s mouth
- contact with breast pumps
- creams to soothe sore nipples, such as lanolin
People may also develop eczema from exposure to other irritants and allergens, such as friction from exercise, tight clothing, or perfumes.
A doctor may diagnose eczema by examining the skin and asking about symptoms. They may order imaging tests such as an ultrasound to check for the presence of other conditions.
Treatments can help a person manage their symptoms and prevent flare-ups.
Some potential treatment options include:
Home treatments and remedies can reduce the severity of flare-ups and itchiness. People may respond differently to each approach. Some examples include:
- avoiding scratching
- wet-wrap therapy
- identifying and avoiding triggers
- soaking in an oatmeal bath
- wearing breathable and loose clothing
- keeping the skin clean and dry
- using aloe vera
The Allergy and Asthma Network states that moisturizing is the most important step for helping to prevent eczema flare-ups. Taking steps to reduce stress can also help lower the risk of flare-ups. Other steps someone can take might include avoiding triggers:
- irritants, such as dyes, perfumes, and other chemicals
- allergens, such as dust or pollen
- certain foods, such as citrus fruits
- contact with jewelry
According to BreastCancer.org, some common causes or triggers of eczema on the breasts include:
- dyes or perfumes in detergents
- tight clothing
There currently is no cure for eczema. But identifying and avoiding triggers can help reduce the risk of flare-ups. Some people will need lifelong topical treatments and home remedies to manage their symptoms.
Eczema shares similar symptoms to some other conditions, which can be serious. Some other conditions that can cause eczema-like rashes include:
- Inflammatory breast cancer: A
raretype of breast cancer that can cause swelling and discoloration of the breast.
- Mastitis: A painful swelling of the breast that is
typicallythe result of breastfeeding.
- Breast abscesses: These are pus-filled pockets that cause swelling and redness in the breast and
are typicallythe result of lactation.
- Mammary duct ectasia: A benign breast condition where the milk ducts widen and thicken. It is
commonin people approaching menopause.
- Paget’s disease: A form of breast cancer that presents with similar symptoms to eczema.
Eczema that appears around the nipple can improve on its own or with some home remedies. But it is worth contacting a doctor about persistent symptoms, as the cause might be something more serious than eczema.
Eczema refers to a group of skin conditions that cause areas of itchy, dry skin with rash-like patches. Eczema can affect several areas of the body, including around the nipples and breasts.
There is currently no cure for eczema, but treatments can ease symptoms and help prevent flare-ups. Other conditions can also cause eczema-like symptoms on the nipples, including inflammatory breast cancer.