What Does It Mean When Your Nipples Hurt?

While it may seem odd, having painful nipples is actually a common experience. For most women, this only happens due to surface friction. Going for a run, dancing, breastfeeding and similar activities can cause friction that makes the nipples hurt. While most cases of nipple pain are nothing to worry about, it can be a sign of a more serious condition. If you cannot figure out why your nipples hurt, make sure to go to your doctor for a check up.

What Does It Mean When Your Nipples Hurt?

1. A Chest Injury

Any time you hurt your chest, it can cause your nipples to feel sensitive. The car seat belt can irritate your nipples during a sudden stop or a car accident. You may also have painful nipples from running into something or sustaining some type of other chest injury. Normally, this will cause swelling and inflammation, but these symptoms will go away over time.

2. Paget’s Disease

One of the rarer reasons why your nipples may hurt is Paget’s disease. This condition has been strongly linked to breast cancer and is found in 1 percent of every breast cancer case. During the initial part of the disease, you may notice crusting on the nipple and redness. Over time, your nipples may start to feel tingling or itchiness. You may also feel burning sensations, pain in the breasts or increased sensitivity. If you have this condition, you should go to a doctor since it is typically treated by surgery. Common treatments for Paget’s Disease include a radical mastectomy, radiotherapy and a lumpectomy.

3. Hormonal Changes

Fortunately, some of the reasons why your nipples may hurt are less dangerous and severe-sounding than Paget’s disease. At puberty, hormonal changes cause the breasts to grow, and the nipples can become increasingly sensitive. Once puberty is complete, hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle can cause painful nipples. Progesterone and estrogen peak at ovulation, which can cause the nipples to be sore. Right before your period, lower progesterone levels and higher estrogen levels can cause nipple pain. Even during menopause, the wide fluctuations in hormones can cause sore nipples.

4. Thrush

Don’t panic quite yet! While thrush sounds like a terrifying condition to have, it is actually extremely treatable. Women often develop thrush during breastfeeding because the Candida yeast has a chance to take hold. Once this happens, you may feel shooting pain, burning or stinging after you breastfeed for about an hour. Your nipples may look cracked, sore or flaky. Since the baby would also be exposed to the yeast, they may have white patches in their mouth. Once the infection has been successfully diagnosed, it can usually be treated easily with pills, anti-fungal creams or gels.

5. Breast Cancer

Unfortunately, some cases of sore nipples are caused by breast cancer. While most people know that a lump in their breast is a sign of cancer, sore nipples is another common sign. If you cannot find any other reason for your painful nipples, you should visit your doctor for a cancer screening. As long as the condition is diagnosed early, your recovery chances are quite high.

6. Dry Skin

One of the less scary-sounding reasons for sore nipples is dryness. It is normal to have dry skin during weather changes and wintertime. If you have dry skin, your nipples will lose moisture and become chapped. It is also possible for dry skin to develop due to the continuous wet and dry changes that occur during breastfeeding. You can prevent this by not over-drying your nipples after your baby feeds, and moisturizer can help to soothe the dryness.

7. Inflammation

If you have been breastfeeding your child, it is normal to deal with some inflammation and tenderness. In some cases, tenderness can be a sign of something more serious. If the ducts become blocked during breastfeeding, you may develop an abscess or mastitis. When this happens, you will need medical treatment to handle the infection. If there are deep cracks or bleeding on your nipples, it could be a sign of a bacterial infection. You may also deal with inflammation due to an overly tight bra or an injury.

If you are experiencing certain symptoms, you should always seek the help of a doctor as soon as possible. Any wounds, open cracks or sores on the nipples require immediate medical treatment. You should see your doctor if you have fatigue, flu-like symptoms, achiness or sudden tearfulness. See a doctor if you have sudden lumps in your breasts, reddened nipples or unusually warm areas on your breasts. You should also go to the doctor if your nipples have any bleeding or discharge.

8. Eczema and Contact Dermatitis

One of the other causes of sore nipples is due to eczema. This can be caused by an allergic reaction, a history of atopic eczema or irritation. Normally, you will feel a burning sensation on your nipple or areola. To alleviate eczema, you should remove any products or clothes that are irritating your skin. Use a moisturize to keep your nipples from getting too dry. A doctor may also prescribe a corticosteroid cream or a topical pain reliever to help.

9. Breastfeeding and Pregnancy

Among the many reasons for nipples to hurt, pregnancy and breastfeeding are the most common. The boost in progesterone and estrogen during a pregnancy can cause sensitive breasts and painful nipples. Once you begin to breastfeed, you may get nipple pain from the hormones or from your baby feeding. You can prevent this by getting your baby to feed with a wider mouth. When they are finished feeding, remove he or she from your nipple by pushing their chin down gently to stop them from suckling.

10. Allergies

Allergies can cause a wide variety of illnesses. Inflammation, itchiness and chapping are signs that you may be having an allergic reaction. Your allergies may be caused by fabrics like wool or laundry detergents. Lotions, shower gels, soap and creams can also cause a reaction. Even changes in heat and coldness can cause inflammation that is normally associated with allergies.

11. Raynaud’s Syndrome

This syndrome is diagnosed based on nipple pain after feeding your child. It can cause lower blood circulation, and higher epinephrine secretion can worsen the condition. Use a warm compress to warm your breast by gently rubbing them to stimulate blood flow.

12. Friction and Chaffing

Jogging and vigorous exercise can cause chaffing around your nipples. The fabric runs against the skin and causes dryness, soreness, irritation and bleeding. Make sure that you wear a well-fitted sports bra for exercising. Rash guards or surgical tape can also help to protect your nipples.


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