Is there anything I should know about nipple health? What if my nipples are inverted? Is there such a thing as a weird or normal nipple?
Okay, here is some nipple knowledge: The nipple is the exit for the milk ducts located within the breast. It is surrounded by a darker, round patch of skin called the areola. The areola may contain small bumps or glands or even hair follicles.
It is important to know that the nipple and the areola come in all different shapes and sizes. Even among a pair, one may differ from the other. Also, the way they look will change as they develop through different life stages such as puberty, pregnancy and menopause.
Here is another fun fact: Most people have two nipples but there are a chosen few with extra or “supernumerary” nipples. These are usually located on the abdomen below the breast and in line with the nipples. These extras have no active function and pose no risk. They may not even look like a nipple, but more like a small mole or skin tag.
A more common finding is the inverted nipple. Most nipples point outward, however 10-20% of people may notice one or both of their nipples face inward or are “inverted.” This usually happens during development when extra scar tissue under the areola keeps the nipple from resting in an outward position. Inverted nipples may become a challenge during breastfeeding. However, with extra education and effort, many women with inverted nipples will successfully breast feed their babies.
There are certain changes in your nipples that warrant special attention. If your nipples typically protrude outward and one or both are suddenly inverted, that is cause for concern. Breast lumps or skin changes anywhere on the breast, including the nipple or areola, may also be a sign of something more serious. Unexpected nipple discharge is also worrisome. Any of these changes should be checked out immediately, as they may be associated with breast cancer. Make an appointment with your physician for a breast exam. Further tests such as a mammogram or breast ultrasound may be recommended.
A final nipple newsflash: There is no such thing as the perfect nipple. There is no reason to compare your own nipples to your friend’s or those you have seen in magazines or in the movies. Your nipples are unique to you and are just right for your body. Get to know your breasts and feel comfortable examining them. If you are unsure whether they are healthy or not, make an appointment with your doctor and get an expert opinion!
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