Breast skin and nipple changes

Alternate Names

Inverted nipple; Nipple discharge

Description

Learn about skin and nipple changes in the breast so you know when to see a health care provider.

Notice Changes in Your Breasts and Nipples

INVERTED NIPPLES

  • This is normal if your nipples have always been indented inward and can easily point out when you touch them. 
  • If your nipples are pointing in and this is new, talk to your health care provider right a way. 

SKIN PUCKERING OR DIMPLING

This can be caused by scar tissue from surgery or an infection. Often, scar tissue forms for no reason. See your health care provider. But know that most of the time this issue does not need treatment. 

WARM TO THE TOUCH, RED, OR PAINFUL BREAST

This is almost always caused by an infection in your breast. Rarely it can be due to breast cancer. See your health care provider for treatment. 

SCALY, FLAKING, ITCHY SKIN

  • This is usually eczema or a bacterial or fungal infection. See your health care provider for treatment.
  • Flaking, scaly, itchy nipples can be a sign of Paget's disease. This is a rare form of breast cancer involving the nipple.

THICKENED SKIN WITH LARGE PORES

This is called peau d’orange because the skin looks like an orange peel. An infection in the breast or inflammatory breast cancer can cause this problem. See your health provider right away. 

RETRACTED NIPPLES

Your nipple was raised above the surface but begins to pull inward and does not come out when stimulated. See your health provider if this is new.

When to Call the Doctor

Call for an appointment with your health care provider ifyou notice:

  • Your nipple is retracted or pulled in when it was not that way before.
  • Your nipple has changed in shape.
  • Your nipple becomes tender and it is not related to your menstrual cycle.
  • Your nipple has skin changes.
  • You have new nipple discharge.

What to Expect from the Doctor

Your health care provider will talk to you about your medical history and recent changes you have noticed in your breasts and nipples. Your health care provider will also do a breast exam. Your health care provider may suggest that you see a dermatologist or breast specialist. 

You may have these tests done: 

  • Mammogram
  • Breastultrasound
  • Biopsy
  • Other tests for nipple discharge

Review Date: 9/15/2012
Reviewed By: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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