Why Does Menopause Cause Itchy Breasts?

Menopause causes many changes and can include some discomforts, like hot flashes and night sweats. But other, more subtle symptoms are not commonly linked with menopause, such as itchy breasts.

Itchy breasts related to menopause are caused by hormonal changes. The breasts are quite responsive to estrogen levels because breast tissue has many estrogen-receptor sites. During menopause, the level of these hormones begins to change, and this can have an impact throughout the body—as well as in the breasts—causing breast tenderness, discomfort, and even itchiness.

This article provides more information on the causes and treatment of itchy breasts during menopause.

itchy breasts menopause

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Breast Changes During Menopause

By the time a person with a uterus and ovaries reaches their late 40s to early 50s, perimenopause has likely started. Perimenopause (literally meaning "around menopause") is the transitional phase leading up to menopause, the time when monthly periods have stopped for 12 months. During perimenopause, a person often starts noticing some changes in their breasts.

During perimenopause, breast changes often occur cyclically due to fluctuating hormonal levels. These breast symptoms start when the monthly cycle begins and then subside a few days later. When menopause occurs, hormonal levels continue to decrease, causing more changes in the breasts. These changes include:

  • A lower density of breast tissue
  • Increased fat tissue in the breasts
  • Shrinking and sagging breasts
  • Tenderness in the breasts
  • Sore nipples
  • Breast or nipple itching

Itchy Breast Causes

Breast tenderness and discomfort are common symptoms during perimenopause and menopause. Breast itchiness may be caused by different underlying factors, including thinning of the skin on the breasts from a decrease in hormone levels.

A drop in estrogen levels can cause the skin to become thin and dry and result in skin atrophy (shrinkage). Thinning of the skin can cause it to be more sensitive to:

  • Some fabrics, such as man-made material manufactured with irritating chemicals
  • Certain types of soap, especially those made with chemicals such as sulfates that can increase skin dryness
  • Sweating from sagging breasts and hot flashes, causing moisture accumulation between and under the breasts, leading to skin irritation, redness, and itchiness
  • Wearing a bra, which can cause sweating and irritation
  • Wearing the wrong size bra, a factor that can interfere with natural air circulation of the breast area

When to See a Doctor

There are many benign reasons for itchy breasts that do not require a visit with a healthcare provider. Breast changes that indicate you should consult with a healthcare provider include:

  • An increase in size or shape of the breast
  • A lump or firmness under the arm
  • Nipple changes or discharge
  • Itchiness that is not promptly relieved with home remedies or that lasts longer than a week
  • Red, scaly, dimpled, or puckered skin
  • Severe itchiness
  • An itchy nipple (particularly if the area is tender, painful, or swollen)
  • Swelling that accompanies itchiness
  • A rash that appears on or underneath the breasts

Itching or changes in the skin also can sometimes be a sign of cancer—such as Paget's disease or inflammatory breast cancer.

Treatment

Home Remedies

At-home treatment for itchy breasts may include:

  • Practicing good hygiene (keeping the breasts dry and clean)
  • Using a mild, natural, sulfate-free soap (such as Cetaphil or CeraVe soap)
  • Using a natural skin moisturizer that is free of irritating chemicals or artificial scents
  • Using an unscented, hypoallergenic laundry soap
  • Taking a natural colloidal oatmeal bath (Colloidal oatmeal is finely ground oatmeal, used to help alleviate itchy skin.)
  • Using over-the-counter medicated anti-itch lotion (such as CeraVe Itch Relief Moisturizing Lotion)

Medical Treatment

After consulting with your healthcare provider for itchy breasts that don’t respond to home remedies, medications may be ordered to help alleviate itching, such as topical (on the skin) estrogen cream or topical hydrocortisone.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

Replacing hormone levels that are dwindling due to menopause is popular for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. According to a study, in people with a uterus and ovaries with declining estrogen levels who have various skin changes (such as thinning skin), HRT with estrogen supplementation may help improve or reverse skin changes. However, HRT is never recommended solely as a treatment for menopausal skin changes.

It’s important to note that HRT may cause some side effects as well as some health risks, including:

  • Breast swelling
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • An increased risk of gallstones
  • Urinary incontinence (the inability to control the bladder, resulting in leakage of urine)
  • An increased risk of breast cancer

Prevention

Prevention of breast itchiness may include:

  • Ensuring the skin is clean and dry
  • Getting measured regularly to be sure your bra size is correct as your breasts change
  • Choosing a clothing material that helps to absorb sweat and is not known to be irritating to the skin, such as natural cotton
  • Wearing lightweight, moisture-wicking fabrics
  • Keeping the temperature in the room low, especially when sleeping
  • Using a room humidifier, particularly in the winter months to combat dry air
  • Using sunscreen when in the sun or while swimming

Frequently Asked Questions

When does menopause start? 

According to the North American Menopause Society, most people with a uterus and ovaries in North America will likely experience natural menopause between the ages of 40 and 58, averaging around age 51. Some, however, reach this phase in their 30s, others not until their 60s. Typically, people with a uterus and ovaries reach menopause around the same age as their mothers and sisters.

How long does menopause last?

One study showed that symptoms of menopause—such as hot flashes and night sweats—persisted for a median duration of about seven years, with symptoms lasting for an average of four and a half years after the last menstrual period.

What causes menopause? 

Menopause is a natural process caused by a change in the body’s reproductive hormones. This change causes your ovaries to stop producing eggs. Menopause can also be caused by surgical removal of the ovaries, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and, although rare, a failure of your ovaries to produce normal levels of hormones.

A Word From Verywell

Verywell Health realizes that symptoms of perimenopause—such as itchy breasts—can be very frustrating and may even be embarrassing. Keep in mind that you are not alone.

Perimenopause and menopause are natural parts of life, but they bring their challenges. When you see your healthcare provider, mentioning your perimenopausal symptoms—including those that are more subtle—may give you the advice, encouragement, and symptom relief you need.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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