Read below about nipple inversion, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your nipple inversion from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having nipple inversion

Take Quiz

Nipple Inversion Symptoms

The nipple is the very center of the areola on both men and women and can vary in color, size, shape and positioning from person to person. In terms of positioning, the nipple can be flat, protruding, inverted and even unclassified. Furthermore, one nipple can be in one position and the other a completely different position; there is no singularly normal pattern.

An inverted nipple is a condition where the nipple is retracted into the breast instead of pointing outwards – see this image here for a visual representation. Since the nipple differs so greatly from person to person, sometimes an inverted nipple can be normal, especially if it has been present from birth.

Other symptoms that may be associated with benign nipple inversion include:

  • Maintained protrusion after finger pressure (will return to inverted position over time)
  • Retraction in response to weather or stimulation
  • Protrusion in response to breastfeeding

However, it is important to follow up nipple inversion with your physician if it is a new symptom that you have not had before and promptly if associated with any of the nipple inversion symptoms below.

Nipple inversion in this context can signal underlying cancer or other serious illness.

Nipple Inversion Causes Overview

Genetic causes:

  • Many people are born with naturally inverted nipples. This type of nipple inversion is usually benign and simply a variation in positioning.
  • Women with genetically inverted nipples usually do not have problems with breastfeeding or other complications.
  • On the other hand, some congenital genetic conditions are associated with certain specific morphologies and characteristics; in such conditions, inverted nipples are characteristic of the disease.

Malignant causes:

  • Newly acquired inverted nipples may be a sign of cancer, especially if the symptoms are associated with nipple pain, bloody fluid or brown discharge from the nipple and changes in color and texture of the nipple and areola.

Infection-related causes:

  • Infection of the milk ducts of the breast is known as mastitis. Mastitis can result in cracked or blistering nipples that may retract into the skin. The inflammation from the infection can cause pain and swelling that is very common among women during breastfeeding.
  • Infection in any part of the breast tissue can cause inflammation and result in an abscess (a pocket of pus). Sometimes these abscesses can also result in nipple inversion.

Traumatic causes:

  • Though less common, direct or indirect trauma to the breast that results in scarring or fat necrosis (condition in which there is injury to an area of fatty tissue that causes breakdown and cell death) can also affect the nipple and cause inversion.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Nipple Inversion

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced nipple inversion. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Breast Infection (Mastitis)

    Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue that results in breast pain, swelling, warmth and redness of the breast. Mastitis most commonly affects women who are breast-feeding (lactation mastitis), although sometimes this condition can occur in women who aren't breast-feeding.

    2-3 weeks with treatment

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, nausea, breast pain, signs of breast inflammation like redness, swelling or fever, fever
    Symptoms that always occur with breast infection (mastitis):
    breast pain, signs of breast inflammation like redness, swelling or fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Nipple Inversion Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having nipple inversion.

    Take Quiz
  2. 2.Breast Abscess

    A breast infection is an infection in the tissue of the breast. Breast infections are usually caused by a common bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, found on normal skin.

    2-3 weeks with treatment

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, breast pain, signs of breast inflammation like redness, swelling or fever, fever, chills
    Symptoms that always occur with breast abscess:
    breast pain, signs of breast inflammation like redness, swelling or fever
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Breast Cancer

    Breast cancer affects one in eight women during their lives. It is caused by uncontrolled and fast growth of damaged cells in the breast tissue. These cells can also move to the lymph nodes and sometimes other organs. The main symptom of breast cancer is a hard or firm, non-mobile, usually non-tender lump in the breast that increases in size.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    breast pain, armpit lump, breast mass or retraction, breast lump, nipple discharge
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Nipple Inversion Treatments and Relief

There are many surgical and corrective procedures for benign nipple inversion symptoms not associated with underlying disease.

If your nipple inversion is genetic and benign there are various at home interventions you can try in order to induce protrusion of the nipple.

  • Hoffman procedure: This is a procedure you can do at home that involves:

    • Placing your thumbs on either side of your nipple at the base and not outside of the areola.
    • Pressing firmly into your breast tissue and gently pulling your thumbs away from each other
    • Moving your thumbs all around the nipple and repeating.

Regular stimulation may help your nipples protrude more often, but since everyone's breasts are different do not become discouraged if this method does not work for you, especially since there is no concrete evidence that this method is effective.

  • Suction: These devices function by pulling the nipple into a small cup, stimulating the nipple to protrude.

However, if you're looking for a more permanent solution, your physician may suggest surgery. ### There are two types of surgeries for nipple inversion correction: ###

  • Surgery that preserves the milk ducts: This type of surgery is known as the "parachute flap" technique. Women undergoing this procedure do not lose the ability to breastfeed or experience any changes in nipple sensation.
  • Surgery that does not preserve the milk duct: Though women undergoing this procedure also do not experience changes in nipple sensation, they do lose the ability to breastfeed.

Nipple Inversion Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced nipple inversion have also experienced:

    • 11% Nipple Discharge
    • 8% Breast Pain
    • 6% Breast Lump
  • People who have experienced nipple inversion were most often matched with:

    • 33% Breast Infection (Mastitis)
    • 33% Breast Abscess
    • 33% Breast Cancer
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having nipple inversion

Take Quiz