Nipples aren’t just decorations—but you already knew that. Here is something you may not have known: Your nipples can indicate some serious health issues.
If you notice sudden puckering or dimpling of the skin around or on your nipple—especially if it happens around just one nipple—you need to call your doctor. This is important because it could be a warning sign of breast cancer.
Here are 7 other things you need to know about your nipples:
1. Nipple discharge is often normal—even when not pregnant or breastfeeding
This discharge can be milky, bluish-green, or clear and it can happen in most women if the nipple is squeezed. But if the discharge is bloody and/or coming from just one of your breasts and you’re not squeezing – consult a doctor. This discharge can be a result of a benign growth, a cyst that is not dangerous, or breast cancer.
2. Third nipples are more common than you think
Up to 27.2 million Americans have a third nipple somewhere on their body, according to an estimate. Third nipples are often believed to be moles or skin tags. A third nipple isn’t a problem, and can easily be removed. The procedure of removing it takes about 30 minutes and the healing is minimal.
3. Exercise can irritate nipples
Sports bra, some balms or band-aids applied to the nipples can really help you. If you notice your nipples are red, itchy, or flaking, and not doing some intense exercises – see your doctor. This could be a sign of Paget’s disease, which is a rare form of cancer involving the nipple and areola. Also, it can be eczema, so don’t panic and see your doctor.
4. Women can have hairy nipples as well
Those small bumps around the nipples are normal hair follicles. If you’ve got dark hairs on your nipples, you can pluck, wax, or cut them carefully. But, if these hair follicles cause you pain, grow in size, or are itchy, see your doctor. This can mean you have an infection—or cancer.
5. Pain in the nipples during breastfeeding is common and can be prevented
In the first few weeks of breastfeeding, throbbing, burning, cracked, or sore nipples are common complaints. However, if it continues, see a breastfeeding specialist; your baby may not be latching on properly. Swollen breasts can also cause pain in the nipples, as can an infection of the nipples caused by bacteria or Candida yeast infection.
6. Inverted nipples should not worry you
About 15% of women have inverted nipples from birth. It’s just a connective tissue that has retracted the nipple inward. Also, only a small surgical procedure is needed to correct it. Both nipples can be corrected in an hour with this procedure under local anesthesia.
7. Nipples are erogenous zones for women (and for some men as well)
Researchers at Rutgers University say that the sensation from nipple stimulation travels to the same pleasure centers of the brain as sensations from the vagina, clitoris, and cervix.
Piercing fans should remember that nipple piercings can cause loss of sensation because of nerve damage.