What Is a Pimple on the Nipple?

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There are many reasons that you might have a bump that looks like a pimple on your nipple. It may, indeed, be a pimple, or you might have a blocked hair follicle or another benign bump.

In general, a pimple on or around your nipple is not a cause for serious concern. However, it may be worth talking to your healthcare professional if you are experiencing pain, itchiness, or discharge.

Talking to healthcare professional about breast concerns
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Anatomy of the Breast and Nipple

People often call the entire pigmented area in the center of the breast the nipple. However, that is not correct. The nipple is the small, raised area in the center of the breast. It is surrounded by a larger, pigmented area called the areola. It is far more common to get pimples and other bumps on the areola than on the actual nipple.

Breast anatomy is very similar regardless of a person's sex. While the size of a person's breast, nipple, and areola varies depending on exposure to hormones and other factors, people of any sex have nipples and areolae.

Bumps, pimples, and other conditions affecting the breast, nipple, and areola are more common in women and other people with larger breasts. However, anyone can end up with pimples or other bumps on and around the nipple.

Symptoms and Causes

There are a number of potential causes of a pimple on the nipple or other bump in the area. These include:

Acne

Some people do get acne pimples on their nipples. Pimples occur when sweat, bacteria, and dirt get trapped in your pores. Then those pores may swell. Most nipple pimples are whiteheads. Frequent acne on the nipples or breasts may be a sign you need to change your hygiene routine.

Ingrown Hairs

Most people have at least some hair follicles on their areolae. That means there is a risk of getting an ingrown hair. An ingrown hair is a shaved or tweezed strand of hair that grows back into the skin. Ingrown hairs can cause bumps that look very similar to pimples caused by acne.

Montgomery Glands

The Montgomery glands (also called areolar glands and Montgomery tubercles) make secretions that lubricate the nipples. They are a type of sebaceous gland (oil-producing gland).

During pregnancy, the glands may become more numerous and prominent. Sometimes, they will become clogged and start to resemble a pimple. This can also occur at other times when hormone levels are changing.

It is possible for a clogged Montgomery gland to become infected. If that happens, you may experience pain as well as an enlarged bump on the areola. Infected Montgomery glands (or cysts) are most often seen in females aged 10–20 years.

Subareolar Abscesses

A subareolar abscess is a small pocket of pus underneath the areola or the nipple. It is caused by a local infection. Subareolar abscesses can be painful, and you may experience swelling of the surrounding area. Sometimes an abscess may be accompanied by a fever or a general feeling of being unwell.

Unlike certain other conditions that can look like a pimple on the nipple, subareolar abscesses are less likely to be found in people who are breastfeeding. They can be caused by a number of different types of bacteria.

Herpes

An extremely rare cause of nipple pimples is a herpes infection. This may be contracted either during breastfeeding an infected infant or when the breast has oral contact with an infected partner during sex.

Herpes infection generally appears initially as small, fluid-filled blisters that may resemble a pimple.

Papilloma

In very rare cases, people can develop warts, or papilloma, on the nipples and areola. It is also possible to develop a papilloma inside the breast. Warts are generally caused by infection with human papillomavirus (HPV). It is possible that some HPV vaccines may reduce the risk.

Diagnosis

Most bumps and pimples on the nipple will go away on their own in a few days. However, if you are experiencing pain or discharge, talk to your doctor. They will likely look at the bump and the surrounding skin to see if they can diagnose the problem based on appearance.

Your clinician may also take a sample of the bump or any fluid inside it in order to test for bacteria or other pathogens. This is generally done as a nipple biopsy. In rare cases, you may also need diagnostic imaging.

You should also consider talking to your doctor if any lumps or pimples are accompanied by a:

  • Rash
  • Flaky skin
  • Burning
  • Tingling
  • Change in nipple shape or direction (such as your nipple becoming flattened or inverted)

Treatment

Most bumps or pimples on the nipples will go away in a few days. Specific treatments depend on the cause of the bump, and often no treatment is needed. However, if you get frequent pimples or bumps on your nipples, there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of having them come back, such as:

  • If you get sweaty during exercise, clean your breasts and change your bra and/or shirt.
  • Shower daily, making certain that your breasts and nipples are fully dry before getting dressed.
  • Avoid clothing that rubs or abrades your nipples and areola.
  • If you use lotion on your breasts or nipples, make certain it's gentle on your skin.

Depending on the cause of the pimples on your nipples, your doctor might also recommend some form of topical treatment. This might be an antifungal treatment if you have a yeast infection. In some cases, an abscess may need to be drained and/or treated with antibiotics.

Summary

The nipple and areola can be the site for painful bumps and pimples. These are most often caused by acne, ingrown hairs, clogged glands, or abscesses. If the bump doesn't go away on its own in a few days, a healthcare professional can be consulted for diagnosis and treatment.

A Word From Verywell

A bump or pimple on your nipple usually isn't a big deal. It may feel scary to see a change in an intimate part of your body, though. If the bump doesn't hurt or have any other symptoms, give it a few days to heal. Just as with acne in other places of your body, it will often go away on its own.

If the bump is itchy, painful, or leaking pus or other fluid, talk to your doctor. Most of the time, a nipple pimple will be simple to treat. Just remember, there's no need for you to be uncomfortable if the doctor can help. Bumps causing discomfort are more likely to need treatment.

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5 Sources
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