Are pimples on the nipple normal?

Many cases of bumps and pimples on the nipple are completely benign. It’s common to have small, painless bumps on the areola. Pimples and blocked hair follicles are also normal and can occur to anyone at any time.

On the nipple, bumps are raised patches of skin, while pimples often take the form of whiteheads.

If the bump becomes painful or itchy and shows up with symptoms like discharge, redness, or rashes, it could indicate another condition that needs to be treated.

Why do pimples on the nipple form?

Many people notice that they have bumps or pimples on their nipple. Bumps or pimples on the nipple have a number of causes. Some are benign and extremely common. Others could indicate complications like abscesses.

Areolar glands

Areolar glands, or Montgomery glands, are small bumps on the areola that secrete oil for lubrication. These are extremely common. Everyone has them, though the size varies from person to person. They are painless.

Yeast infection

If pimples on your nipple are accompanied by a rash, it could be due to a yeast infection. These infections can spread rapidly. Other symptoms include redness and itchiness.

Acne

Acne can appear on any part of your body, nipples included. Acne on the nipples typically takes the form of small whiteheads. This can occur at any age and is particularly common in women who work out a great deal due to their skin being in contact with a sweaty sports bra. It’s also a common occurrence before a woman’s period.

Blocked hair follicle

Everyone has hair follicles around their areola. These hair follicles can become blocked, resulting in ingrown hairs or pimples. Blocked hair follicles will typically resolve on their own. In rare cases, an ingrown hair can cause an abscess.

Subareolar abscess

Subareolar abscesses are an accumulation of pus that develops in breast tissue. They are most commonly caused by mastitis, which is related to breastfeeding. But this can also occur in women who aren’t currently breastfeeding. Subareolar abscesses appear as a tender, swollen lump under an areolar gland. It’s often painful. In women who aren’t breastfeeding, this could be a sign of breast cancer.

Breast cancer

In extremely rare cases, bumps on the breast may be a symptom of breast cancer. These bumps may be accompanied by a discharge of blood or pus.

Getting rid of pimples on the nipple

Treatment for bumps on your nipple will depend on the cause of the bumps.

In many cases, acne and pimples can be left alone. If you’re regularly experiencing acne on your nipples or chest, your doctor may prescribe low-dose antibiotics like doxycycline (Vibramycin, Adoxa) to help clear it up.

Yeast infections, which can also cause sudden pain, can be treated with topical antifungal creams. If breastfeeding, your infant likely has an oral yeast infection or thrush. Make sure your pediatrician treats them at the same time.

Subareolar abscesses are treated by draining the infected tissue. You’ll also be given antibiotics to prevent further infection. If the abscess returns, the affected glands may be surgically removed.

If breast cancer is suspected, your doctor may order a mammogram and a biopsy. If your doctor diagnoses breast cancer, they may recommend treatments such as:

  • chemotherapy and radiation
  • surgery to remove the tumor
  • mastectomy, or surgical removal of breast tissue

Women vs. men

Bumps on the nipple can occur in both men and women. Women are more likely to experience acne related to hormonal fluctuations. They’re also more likely to experience subareolar abscesses, particularly from mastitis, and yeast infections while breastfeeding.

Because men can develop breast cancer and other complications like abscesses, it’s just as important for them to see a doctor for bumps in their nipple that are painful or swollen. Men have less significantly less breast tissue than women, so any lumps that develop will be right under or around the nipple.

When to see a doctor

If you have a bump or pimple on your nipple that is swollen, painful, or changes quickly, make an appointment to see your doctor. These are signs of nipple complications.

Bumps that appear alongside a redness or rash could indicate a yeast infection or, in rare cases, breast cancer.

Swollen lumps under your nipple can indicate subareolar abscesses, which are also often painful and cause you to feel generally unwell.

Regardless of your sex, if you experience any of the preceding symptoms in addition to other common symptoms of breast cancer, you should make an appointment to see a doctor right away. These symptoms include:

  • other lumps or swelling in the breast tissue
  • your nipple turning inward (retraction)
  • skin puckering or dimpling on your breast
  • discharge from your nipple
  • redness or scaling on the skin of your breast or nipple

Preventing pimples on the nipple

The most effective way to prevent nipple complications is to maintain a healthy lifestyle and good hygiene. Wear loose-fitting clothes, and keep the area clean and dry. Change out of sweaty clothes as soon as you’re done working out, especially if you’re wearing sports bras, and shower right away.

Women who are breastfeeding should take these extra precautions to prevent nipple complications:

  • Wash hands often with soap and warm water, including both before and after nursing.
  • Nurse frequently for shorter amounts of time, especially if thrush is a concern.
  • Breastfeed equally from both breasts, which can help prevent mastitis.
  • Empty your breast completely to prevent blocked milk ducts.

Outlook

Many cases of bumps on the nipple are completely benign and extremely common, like areolar glands and the occasional blocked hair follicle or pimple. If you notice bumps that suddenly change, are painful or itchy, or come with a rash or discharge, make an appointment to get checked by your doctor.