One of the most common causes is breastfeeding. Some nipple pain causes create irritation to the point that part of the nipple bleeds and scabs over.
A scab on your nipple is a normal reaction to a break in the skin. It can be a result of a variety of causes from breastfeeding to friction from your clothing.
When your skin’s broken, platelets in your blood — along with other things like the protein fibrin — start the clotting process. This applies anywhere on your body, including the nipple.
When the clot gets dry and hard, it’s a scab. The scab serves to keep germs out of the opening and allow the cells underneath to heal.
Commonly, women have some nipple pain as they get used to breastfeeding. According to a 2016 study, in the first month after giving birth, 32 percent of women reported cracked nipples due to breastfeeding.
Once your nipples have become accustomed to breastfeeding, the discomfort can continue if your baby:
- doesn’t latch correctly
- is poorly positioned
- has anatomical issues such as tongue tie
If nipple discomfort continues and begins to crack or blister, they can bleed. That can lead to a scab on your nipple.
If you’re concerned about nipple pain or scabs, make an appointment with your doctor or a lactation consultant to help you address the situation and breastfeed painlessly.
If you participate in sports such as running or cycling, the motion of your clothing or sports bra rubbing against your nipple can cause chafing that could eventually result in a scab.
You can prevent this with a proper fitting sports bra. Some runners — including men — apply a lubricant such as petroleum jelly or anti-chafe cream or a product, such as NipEaze or NipGuard, before working out.
Eczema is a skin condition characterized by a scaly, itchy rash. It commonly develops in the areola — the area of dark skin around the nipple — and can be caused by a reaction to laundry detergents, soaps, certain materials, and other potential irritants.
Eczema may irritate nipples to the point that they bleed and scab.
Eczema — also referred to as atopic dermatitis — often begins to clear up once you’ve identified and removed the cause. Consider using hypoallergenic detergents and soaps that don’t have dyes and perfumes. Your doctor might recommend topical steroids.
Redness, flakiness, and soreness in and around your areola could be Paget’s disease. It looks like eczema, but it doesn’t go away with eczema treatment. Paget’s disease is an uncommon form of breast cancer.
Your nipple could be seriously irritated or even injured during activities, including sex.
If you spend time in the sun topless or go topless in a tanning bed, your nipples may burn from exposure. Sunburn can result in peeling and scabbing.
Your nipples and areolas have hundreds of nerve endings and the skin is quite delicate. There are a number of activities that can result in nipple irritation to the point of bleeding and eventually scabbing.
Although breastfeeding might be one of the most common causes, there are other culprits including:
- friction of clothing
- physical injury
- Paget’s disease
If you’re having trouble with nipple pain and scabbing, make an appointment with your doctor. They should be able to help you discover the root cause and offer advice on the best treatment for your specific situation.