The skin around your breast and nipples can suddenly become dry, craked, flaky and itchy. This never happens without a reason behind it and should be taken seriously.
- The skin around nipples can crack and become flaky due to an infection or irritation.
- Dry nipples may be caused by dehydration, irritation from your undergarments, an infected piercing.
- The detergent you use or even the chemical in your swimming pool can produce such discomfort.
Here are the causes of dry, cracking nipples and home remedies for quick relief.
Dryness and nipple weirdness is for the most part not considered a sign of any major health problem. But, anything to do with breasts has the tendency to send a person into panic mode, brought about by the fear of having a condition such as breast cancer.
Before getting into what causes dry nipples, it is vital to understand that the skin surrounding the nipples is very sensitive.
As such, soaps, detergent, and even your bra could be potential triggers to flaking and dryness. Below, we are going to look at what causes cracking, itchy skin around nipples, and the home remedies that you can use to deal with the problem.
Why are my nipples dry? Irritants and illnesses present in your current environmental surroundings could be one of the reasons why you are currently having to deal with nipple problems.
Such problems, including those that have something to do with your milk ducts can affect both genders.
Often, a majority of nipple problems affecting a woman will have nothing to do with breast cancer, though they may indicate the presence of a serious underlying medication condition.
Itchy nipples have been known to cause a great deal of discomfort to the affected individual. Some of the reasons why you are having dry, itchy nipples include:
1. Environmental factors
Chemicals present in your surrounding environment are primarily the reason for itchy nipples. Chemicals can be found in:
- Laundry detergents or bathing soaps
- Man-made fabrics
- Swimming pool
When you come into contact with chemicals in any of the above products and/ or areas, you will likely start to experience an itch. Additional environmental factors that can cause dryness in your nipples are those that can be attributed to the extreme weather conditions present during the summer or winter seasons.
Exposure to the UV rays in the sun when sunbathing, extreme weather, or exposure to low humidity levels in a room can all contribute to a dry skin surface.
2. Skin conditions e.g. psoriasis, eczema
Skin conditions are the second culprit that can cause a dry skin around nipples and breast area. Skin conditions that may cause flaky and itchy nipples include:
- Psoriasis—a condition characterized by the buildup of rough and dry skin cells. The buildup can occur in any place of your body, and once it has taken place, it will be characterized by the appearance of dry, scaly skin.
- Hypothyroidism—a skin condition marked by overall presence of dry skin. It comes about due to lack of activity in your oil and sweat glands, courtesy of having low thyroid hormones.
- Other skin conditions—additional skin conditions, which may lead to a case of itchiness and dryness on your nipples are eczema and contact dermatitis.
What causes itchy, dry nipples during pregnancy? Pregnancy is known to cause flaking and itching in the breast area in two main ways:
- The skin around the breast gets stretched, more so in the area around your areola, given that your breasts will increase in size when you are pregnant, as they prepare to start milk production. When the skin is stretched in this nature, it will undoubtedly be accompanied by a certain degree of irritation.
- Irritation in the area surrounding your breast may come about due to an infection that occurred during lactation-mastitis. Mastitis has two primary causes, with the one responsible for aching nipples being attributed to bacteria that infect the nipple or skin during lactation, thereby resulting in inflammation.
4. Breast cancer: Paget’s disease
Cancer is another possible cause for dry, itchy nipples. But, with this cause, there is a need for the diagnosis to be carried out by a professional. Some of the symptoms associated with cancer include:
- Presence of a lump in your breast
- Scale buildup around your areola
- Fluid leakage
Breast cancer, and by extension Paget’s disease is the worst case scenario that can be attributed to the itching of your nipples. If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should immediately report it to your doctor.
The nipples may become cracked, sore, or even irritated because of friction. Sexual activity and running are some of the temporary causes of nipple related problems, due to the friction that is involved in both tasks. Receiving a severe blow to your chest, or having unusual pressure applied to the chest may also lead to nipple discharge.
At times, newborn babies also have a discharge coming from their nipples. The discharge is because the babies absorb hormones from their mothers as they are preparing to breastfeed.
Witch’s milk is the name given to the nipple discharge coming from newborn babies, and it is not considered to be a serious problem by doctors as it should go away on its own.
5. Infected nipple piercings
Dry, peeling skin around nipples may be due to an infected nipple piercing. A wound is likely to form on the nipple piercing if you keep disturbing the jewelry. For example, your bra or garment can pull on it and irritate the nipple.
Mishandling when cleaning a nipple piercing can also irritate the nipple. The result is likely to be a scab on your nipple, some sort of yellow drainage that will eventually dry to form a dry scab on nipples. If you see a crusty scab on your nipple after a piercing, seek treatment from your doctor or piercing specialist.
Diagnosis of nipple problems
When you visit your doctor with a nipple related problem, the physician will want to know a number of things, among them:
- Whether you are taking any medication
- Any changes you have made to your diet recently
- Any recent activity or exercise that may have irritated the nipples
- Whether you are expectant
The methods used to diagnose nipple problems include:
- Ductography—for a woman with a nipple discharge, the physician may need to perform some tests to establish how many of your ducts (which are responsible for transporting milk to the nipples are involved). In this test, the physician will inject dyes into your breasts, before taking an X-ray. The X-ray is meant to check the functioning of the ducts.
- Mammogram—this is an imaging test; whose function is to record images of the tissues that are present in the breast. It is used to determine whether you have a growth inside you.
- Skin biopsy—a skin biopsy is needed if your doctor suspects that you may have Paget’s disease. The biopsy will require the removal of a small piece of skin from the breast for examination purposes.
Common symptoms of dry and itchy nipples include:
Cracked skin around nipples
Dry and peeling skin around your nipples could have a number of causes. To start with, this may be nothing more than simple irritation and dryness of your skin. During cold weather, it is normal for a person to have local irritation of their nipples—this is because the nipples are at a point of friction with your clothing.
Another possible cause is eczema—a chronic skin condition where your skin becomes red, dry, and may start to crack, itch, and flake with time. Eczema and dry skin both respond positively to good moisturizing.
Flaky skin on nipples
Skin flaking is one of the early symptoms of Paget’s disease. The other symptoms include mild scaling and redness of the skin. Initial symptoms may only cause mild irritation, and may, therefore, not warrant making a visit to the physician.
But, keep in mind that skin improvement may take place spontaneously. It is however recommended that you not take this as a sign that the condition has disappeared. At an advanced stage, the condition may show symptoms e.g.
- Increased sensitivity of the skin
- Possible bloody discharge from your nipple
An itchy nipple or breast may appear like an embarrassing problem, but this need not be the case. Itchy breasts happen to very many people, and will at one point afflict each individual in their lifetime.
The causes of itchy nipples are diverse and range from mere factors such as skin irritation, to more complex and alarming causes like breast cancer.
Pain during breastfeeding
It is considered normal to experience some pain when you are nursing your young one. When the baby is properly latched, you will experience between thirty and sixty seconds of pain, after which, the pain should start easing.
In case you continue experiencing the pain, momentarily stop feeding your baby and reposition him or her on your breast. If after repositioning the pain still persists, it means that there is something else that could be happening.
Red skin around nipples
Redness or red skin around nipples is commonly associated with periductal mastitis. Recently, it has come to be considered as a unique duct ectasia sub-class. The condition comes to the attention of a breast cancer doctor as a differential diagnosis.
This happens after a mass has been discovered behind one of your nipples. It can also be discovered because of nipple retraction or nipple discharge.
The condition starts to develop when one of the ducts behind your nipple is inflamed or infected. Typically, it occurs with the younger age groups, as opposed to mammary duct ectasia, which is associated with the older demographics.
The main difference between the two conditions is that in periductal mastitis, the mass will develop around your nipple instead of behind the nipple.
With pregnancy, a lot of changes are expected to occur in the body. Weight gain is among the changes that are expected by expectant women.
However, many do not expect to experience dry, itchy nipples during the course of their pregnancy. An itching nipple is not only an uncomfortable experience, but it can also be very embarrassing.
A majority of women state that they begin experiencing itchiness in their nipples, even before they truly establish that they are pregnant. Dryness and itchiness in the nipples are therefore among the first pregnancy symptoms that you should check out for, if you have not yet taken the home test.
Early pregnancy and dryness are linked, as the hormones will be running wild at this particular time, and the body will be busy producing hormones, which naturally are not present, until you become pregnant. For instance, the placenta will produce many hormones in a bid to ensure that your body will not reject it, and this can lead to itchiness and dryness.
Home remedies for dry nipples
Dry and sore nipples are a common complaint among most women. Actually, close to two-thirds of all women will suffer from this condition at one point during their lives.
However, the condition is more prevalent among mothers who are breastfeeding young babies—with eighty percent of the women in this group experiencing soreness and pain.
Typically, this is caused by the baby being unable to properly latch to the mother’s breast while feeding.
Additional factors that can contribute to dryness and soreness of the nipples include:
- Wearing the wrong bra size
- Exercising without wearing a sports bra
- Sustaining an injury to the chest area
- Having an excessively dry skin, which can cause the appearance of cracks on your nipples
- Hormonal changes e.g. those associated with the premenstrual syndrome and with pregnancy
- Health conditions e.g. mastitis, skin infection, thrush, and breast cancer
In the human body, nipples tend to be some of the most sensitive areas, and when they are dry or sore, they can cause a person a great deal of discomfort. You can alleviate most of the discomfort that comes with having a dry nipple using over the counter ointments, medications, or creams. Alternatively, you can start by trying out some of the readily available home remedies.
1. Breast milk
When breastfeeding is the cause of this soreness, dryness, or blistered and bleeding nipples, consider using the milk from your breasts to heal yourself. The breast milk contains healing and antibacterial properties, which are ideal when dealing with this problem.
- Before you start breastfeeding, take a few drops of your breast milk and apply it over the nipple that is affected
- Once done breastfeeding, apply some more milk
- Allow it enough time to air dry
- The same should be done for the other nipple
- Ensure you follow this remedy a few times each day until the dryness has subsided completely
2. Warm compress
Applying a warm compress over the region that is affected is always a great way of dealing with a dry or sore nipple. The heat coming from the warm compress will aid healing and ease the discomfort being experienced.
- Take a clean washcloth and dip it in a bowl of warm water
- Wring out the water and then place the washcloth on each breast for a few minutes
- You should use the warm compress at least ten minutes before you can start breastfeeding
- Make sure to repeat the remedy a few times each day until this soreness goes away completely
- Alternatively, use a heating pad or take a warm shower. They will both assist in alleviating the symptoms associated with this condition.
3. Oil massage
Dry or sore nipples can also be treated by using massage oils e.g. sweet almond oil, olive, or coconut oil. These oils have a moisturizing property, which ensures that the affected area is moisturized, thereby reducing dryness. Additionally, it will also assist in reducing problems such as chapping, tears, or cracks, which may worsen your condition, and make healing to take much longer than it should.
- Heat your preferred oil in a microwave until it becomes warm
- Apply this warm oil, ensuring your massage it over your nipples
- Repeat the application process a few times each day
Note: before you can breastfeed your baby, ensure you thoroughly wash your nipples using warm water, to ensure that all the remaining oil has been removed from your breasts.
4. Aloe Vera
Thanks to its pain-relieving and natural healing properties, aloe Vera is considered to be another effective home remedy that can be used to deal with dry and sore nipples.
- Obtain an aloe leaf and cut it open to extract the aloe gel
- Scoop the gel using your fingers and apply it all over the areas that are affected. Once done with application, give it enough time for it to dry
- After a while, use warm water and a clean washcloth to clean the area. A soft towel will also be needed to pat the area dry
- You should repeat application a few times each day for about three days
5. Basil leaves
These leaves come with healing properties, which can be used to heal various kinds of skin problems. The herb assists in speeding up the overall healing process of dry, sore, or itchy nipples, as well as providing relief from bleeding, pain, and cracks.
- Collect a handful of basis leaves, wash them properly, and then proceed to grind them to form a paste
- You should then take this paste and apply it on your nipples, before allowing it to dry
- Before feeding your baby, ensure that you have washed off the paste
- Try and follow this remedy at least five times each day for the next one week.
To obtain temporary relief from the pain that may have been caused by sore nipples or from breastfeeding, use an ice cube to massage your nipples. Ice cubes have a cold temperature, which is needed to numb the areas that are sore. Ice cubes can also assist with swelling.
- Obtain a few ice cubes and wrap them using a thin towel
- Place this towel with the ice cubes on the area that is affected for a few minutes
- Repeat application a few times in between the feeding sessions
Apart from using an ice pack, you can also use frozen carrots or peas. They will both help achieve the same objective.
SEE YOUR DOCTOR
You should give whatever is bothering your nipple a few days for it to resolve itself, but if this does not happen, you must make sure to treat it as any other nipple change, and call your physician.
It is vital to rule out cancer, and your physician may be in a position to provide you with a solution to assist with the pain and itchiness.
- PJ Hamel. (2009, April 14th). Nipple Issues: When to worry, When to Wait: https://www.healthcentral.com/article/nipple-issues-when-to-worry-when-to-wait
- Steven Halls. (2017, June 11). Periductal Mastitis: http://breast-cancer.ca/periduc/
- Nivin Todd. (2016, July 24th). Paget’s Disease of the Nipple: http://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/pagets-nipple-disease