Why Are My Nipples Hard and Sore?

While many people have experience hard and sore nipples at some point, it is a condition that you may feel uncomfortable talking to your doctor about. While the discomfort may not be pleasurable, it is not always a sign of a serious problem. There are many different reasons why your nipples may feel hard and sore at some point in your life.

Why Are My Nipples Hard and Sore?

1. Paget’s Disease

Paget’s disease of the nipple is actually an extremely rare disease. Often, it is diagnosed with breast cancer and about 1 percent of breast cancers have Paget’s disease. The causes of this condition are unknown, but it can make your nipples feel hard and sore. You may also experience symptoms like increased sensitivity on the nipple, redness, burning sensations, itching and crusting. If you have Paget’s disease of the nipple, you may be given treatments like surgery or radiotherapy.

2. Blocked Ducts

One common cause for hard and sore nipples is blocked ducts. Within the breast, there is is an intricate system of ducts that are responsible for the production of breast milk. These ducts can occasionally become blocked, which can cause the nipple to feel hard and sore. If this is the cause, you may also feel a lump in your breast. The skin may be inflamed, red and painful around the affected area. Breast feeding improperly is a common cause of the condition, although poor hygiene can also contribute to it. If this is the cause of your nipple soreness and hardness, over-the-counter medicine, a gentle massage or a warm compress can help with the pain.

3. Hormonal Fluctuations

There are many reasons why your hormonal levels may fluctuate during your life. This can end up causing your nipples to feel sore or hard. Some of the possible causes of hormonal fluctuations include:

Postmenstrual Syndrome

This syndrome can cause sore nipples. Basically, there may be an increased level of estrogen or an estrogen imbalance in the woman’s body that is causing the nipples to feel sore and hard.


Pregnancy is a well-known cause of hormonal fluctuations. Progesterone and estrogen levels can change rapidly during pregnancy. The increase in progesterone helps to mature the glands responsible for making breast milk. Estrogen is responsible for increasing breast tissue. Together, these hormones and activities can cause your nipples to become sore.

Pre-Menopause and Menopause

Every woman will ultimately go through menopause later in their life. When you enter this stage, your estrogen and progesterone levels start to fall. If progesterone levels fall too much faster than estrogen, it can lead to a hormonal imbalance. Once estrogen is the dominant hormone in your body, it can lead to nipple soreness and hardness.

4. Breast Rash

A rash can cause your skin to become flaky, sore, red and itchy. You may also notice bumps or spots filled with pus. Loose-fitting clothes can help the rash to heal. Try not to scratch it or irritate it. If it is severe, make sure to go to your doctor for treatment.

5. Breastfeeding

Sore or hard nipples are extremely common for breastfeeding mothers. If breast milk is produced in excess, it can cause nipple pain and soreness. Make sure your child properly latches and breastfeed naturally to reduce this pain. Your breasts will fill naturally with milk after you give birth, and your breasts can become engorged if you do not breastfeed. This can cause symptoms like nipple soreness, nipple hardness, feeling hot, swollen breasts or red breasts. The discomfort should pass, but you should go to your doctor if it does not.

6. Breast Cancer

While many people associate breast cancer with women, it can actually occur in men as well. Lumps in the breast are the most famous symptom, but it can also cause hard and sore nipples. You may also experience discharge from your nipple. The shape, appearance or size of your breast can also change. Treatments for breast cancer include removing the breast entirely (mastectomy), targeted drugs, radiotherapy, hormonal therapy, removing the tumor (lumpectomy) and chemotherapy.

7. Allergies and Sensitivity

If you are allergic to something, it can cause symptoms. Your breasts could also be sensitive to hot or cold water. Common causes of breast allergies and sensitivity include lotions, soaps, laundry detergents, shower gels and fabrics. An allergy can also cause itching, redness or chapping.

8. Mastitis

Mastitis is a fairly common condition for women who are breastfeeding, although it can also affect people who are not breastfeeding. Basically, the breast tissue becomes infected. This can cause symptoms like swelling, pain, increased warmth, soreness, redness, fever or chills. Treating the condition is normally done with antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria that are causing mastitis. Painkillers may also be given to help with pain. If you are breast feeding, making sure that you are using the right technique or position can help you avoid this problem from happening again in the future.


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