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Why Are My Nipples Itchy? Top 7 Reasons

Itchy nipples can be quite an irritating problem. Not to forget the embarrassment that itchy nipples can lead to as well if you are not alone and with company.

There are many different reasons why your nipples might itch. While pregnancy is the most commonly witnessed condition leading to itchy nipples, there are certainly other causes that can also lead to itchy nipples.

Here, let us see the Top 7 reasons why your nipples can itch.

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Pregnancy

There are a lot of changes that the body undergoes during pregnancy. Around 90% of all pregnant women report skin changes of some kind or the other [1]. These skin changes might be owing to hormonal changes, some alteration in the already existing skin conditions, or development of any skin condition that is pregnancy-specific.

A common issue that pregnant women face is that of itching nipples. As the body stretches to accommodate the growing foetus, the breasts too become enlarged in preparation for nursing a baby.

While the body expands in keeping with the progression of pregnancy, striae or stretch marks can be seen. Stretch marks can appear in the form of lines, bands or stripes on the skin. Appearing as parallel streaks of red skin, they become scar-like and whitish over time.

While the breasts might develop stretch marks, the nipples get extended, leading to the skin of the nipples being stretched as well. This leads to itchiness in the nipples.

Application of a mild moisturizer can bring comfort to itchy nipples during pregnancy.

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Breastfeeding

Another cause behind itchy nipples can be breastfeeding your baby. There is an added strain on the nipple when the newborn has trouble latching on for any reason.

Alternatively, swollen milk ducts or milk residue on the nipples might be causing the annoying itch in your nipples if you are breastfeeding your baby.

Using silicone gel pads cooled in the refrigerator or lanolin ointment soothe the itchiness to a great extent.

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Thrush

Another common factor that can cause breast and nipple discomfort among breastfeeding women is that of nipple candidiasis or thrush of the nipple [2]. This is a fungal infection reported by breastfeeding mothers.

A tell-tale sign of thrush in breastfeeding women is that of the skin is flaky or shiny along with being itchy. Sharp pain while breastfeeding is also reported by women suffering from nipple candidiasis.

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Allergy

Another common, and usually undiagnosed, reason for itchy nipples can be allergic contact dermatitis. Simply put, it means an allergic response to anything that might lead to a reaction in the form of rashes or discolouration on the skin.

In certain cases, using a new pair of undergarments might be causing the problem. Often, the material or the dye used in the manufacturing of your bra might be leading to itchiness in the nipples due to contact dermatitis.

If you have recently started wearing new lingerie and have been experiencing some discomfort in and around your nipples, it is advisable to stop wearing the new bra for some days. Many times, the itchiness in the nipples will go down on its own.

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Menopause

The skin of a menopausal woman tends to get drier and more easily irritated. Along with the fluctuation of hormones, there is a lesser amount of oil being produced by the skin. When taken together, this can cause itchy nipples.

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Cancer Treatment

Treatment for cancer can also cause itchy nipples. Radiation therapy dries out the skin, making it more vulnerable.

Additionally, drugs given during chemotherapy - such as alkaloids and antimetabolites - can also lead to pruritus or severe itching of the skin [3].

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Paget’s Disease Of The Nipple

Paget's disease of the nipple is a rare kind of breast cancer that can cause an eczema-like rash on the nipple [4].

Often misdiagnosed as eczema or dermatitis, Paget's disease of the nipple is often overlooked by medical practitioners. A rare disease affecting 1% to 4% of breast cancers, symptoms of Paget's disease of the nipple is severe itching in the nipple area, a tingling sensation, burning, and pain [5].

In about 33 per cent of the cases of Paget's disease of the nipple, a noticeable mass is usually observed at the time of diagnosis [6].

Itchiness of the breast can be due to many different factors. While the primary reason for breast itch is found to be pregnancy-related, there might be other underlying health issues as well.

It is always best to get your nipple itch checked out by a registered medical practitioner if the itch is persistent and cannot be explained through the common reasons associated with breast itch.

Read more about: nipples pregnancy allergy
Story first published: Tuesday, March 17, 2020, 19:00 [IST]
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