By Dr. Kathleen Ruddy

An inverted nipple is a nipple that has turned inward, into the breast, instead of pointing outwards. This condition can be either a temporary one, in which case the nipple can be brought out with stimulation, or a permanent one, in which the nipple remains retracted. Although having an inverted nipple is a common condition and some people are born with them, a newly inverted nipple should be immediately examined by a doctor. In very rare cases, it can lead to a diagnosis of cancer.

Know the Causes of Inverted Nipples

There are two categories of factors that can cause inverted nipples: congenital factors and acquired factors. Congenital inverted nipples means that they have been retracted since birth due to genetics. Acquired factors, or factors that have developed later, can be a medical concern. They can be caused by pregnancy, breastfeeding, surgery to the breast, breast disorders, and tuberculosis. In very rare cases, a cancer that has started in the milk duct can cause the nipple to turn inward. If one of your nipples suddenly seems to be inverted, you need to make an appointment with your doctor to ascertain what has caused this to happen.

Know What an Inverted Nipple Looks Like

And inverted nipple is a nipple that turns into the breast instead of outward. There are degrees of severity. Some inverted nipples simply look flat. Others look like a tiny slit on the areola. Others present as holes where the nipples would be.


About 10 to 20 percent of all women are born with inverted nipples.

Learn About the Implications of Treatment

Once your doctor has ruled out cancer as the cause of your inverted nipple or nipples, you can choose to have them corrected through surgery. Before you can undergo surgery for this purpose, you must be 18 years old or older, not pregnant or breastfeeding, healthy and stable psychologically, and aware of the pros and cons of this type of surgery.

Be Aware of the Complications of the Surgical Correction of Inverted Nipples

Usually, when performed by an experienced surgeon, the surgical correction of inverted nipples is a success. However, certain complications may be associated with this surgery, like infection at the surgical site, scars, bleeding from the wound, re-inversion of the protracted nipple, injury to the skin around the nipple, temporary loss of breast sensation, and the permanent inability to breastfeed.

Know the Steps to Take After Surgery for Inverted Nipples

During your recovery after surgery to correct inverted nipples, you are likely to experience only mild discomfort. You can go back to work after three or four days but remember to avoid aerobic exercise and heavy lifting. In the first week of your recovery you might feel some discomfort that can be treated with over-the-counter painkillers.

Most women who have inverted nipples were born with them. Only very rarely are they associated with breast cancer. Still, if you suddenly notice that one of your nipples has become inverted, you should see a physician right away. The causes of inverted nipples can vary. Surgical treatment for them is a possibility.


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