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What are inverted nipples?
You may not be able to tell if you have inverted nipples just by looking at them. You can complete a “pinch test” by gently squeezing the areola about an inch from your nipple. Your nipple should become erect. If not, it is considered flat. If your nipple retracts, it is an inverted nipple.
Additionally, if your nipples become erect when it is cold or with stimulation, they are not considered inverted. Truly inverted nipples will not respond to these kinds of stimuli. It is important to note that only one nipple may be inverted, while the other one can be normal.
Still, you may be concerned with the appearance of your nipples if they look inverted. In many cases, nipples are dimpled. This means that they look flat or inverted but will respond and become erect if it is cold or there is stimulation.
Causes of inverted nipples
Inverted nipples often occur naturally. Babies are often born with inverted nipples. Nipples may also be inverted as a result of:
- Traumatic fat necrosis
- Infections like mastitis
- Rapid weight loss
- Surgery on your breast
- Paget’s disease of the breast
- Breast cancer
Who can have inverted nipples?
Anyone can have inverted nipples, although they are more common in women. Since inverted nipples are considered a genetic trait, you are more likely to have them if someone else in your family already does.
How do you know if you have inverted nipples?
If you suspect that you have inverted nipples, begin paying attention to them when it is cold. Do they respond by becoming erect? Use the pinch test to see if your nipples stick out or collapse in. If you have questions about your nipples, talk to your doctor for a formal diagnosis.
How are inverted nipples diagnosed?
Inverted nipples are usually identified by pediatricians during well checks for babies or as your child enters puberty. Visual identification is sufficient for diagnosis, although a doctor may perform the “pinch test” mentioned above to see how the nipple responds.
Nipples that are inverted from birth are not a concern. However, if you or your child develops inverted nipples after puberty, cancer may be a concern.
Treatments for inverted nipples
Since inverted nipples don’t cause harm to your body, treatment is not necessary. If the appearance of your nipples bothers you, there are options that don’t involve surgery.
Since the most common reason for women to address inverted nipples is breastfeeding, most at-home remedies are geared toward breastfeeding. Still, they can help even if you are not lactating.
These remedies include:
- Breast Pump or Modified Syringe – These devices use suction to pull your nipple outward. While most pumps are designed to extract milk from the breast, using a pump on a low setting can help to improve the look of inverted nipples.
- Nipple Stimulation – Similar to the pinch test, you pinch your areola about one inch back and roll your nipple between your thumb and finger.
- Reverse Pressure – This method is the opposite of nipple stimulation. Instead of pinching the area around your nipple out, you push back the base of the nipple toward the chest wall to push other tissue and fluid back toward your chest.
This treatment is very similar to getting botox fillers on your face and lips. Less invasive than surgery, hyaluronic acid fillers are injected into the skin behind the nipples to help them stick out more. Though research finds this treatment effective, it does not work all of the time.
What risks are associated with correcting inverted nipples?
All treatments pose the risk of negative side effects, so talk to your doctor about the best way to treat your inverted nipples without surgery. At-home remedies like a breast pump can cause damage if the suction is too strong or devices aren’t used properly.
In the case of injectable fillers, you’ll want to research doctors to find someone who has the correct certifications for administering injections for your inverted nipples correction. Similarly, you need to ask questions and make sure they are using approved fillers.
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Food and Drug Administration: “FDA approved dermal fillers.”
John Hopkins Medicine: “Flat and inverted nipples.”
La Leche League International: “Flat and inverted nipples.”
National Center for Biotechnology Information: “Inverted nipples.”