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Why Are My Nipples Hard and Sore?

Many people may experience hard or sore nipples throughout their life, which, at times, can cause great discomfort. There are numerous instances and conditions that can make one’s nipples hard and sore, many of which will be explained in this article.

Nipples Hard and Sore, Why?

The following occurrences and conditions can lead to hard and sore nipples, some more serious than others.

1. Breastfeeding

After giving birth to a child and producing milk, it is possible for the glands responsible for breast-milk production produce too much milk, which can lead to nipple pain and hardness. The volume of milk can be reduced naturally by breastfeeding and ensuring that you child properly latches on when doing so.

Another point to note is that when you child has just been born, your breast naturally fill with breast-milk to provide your child with the nutrients it needs. This can lead to engorgement of the breasts, and can make nipples hard and sore. It may also cause them to feel hot, and appear swollen, red, and/or shiny. The discomfort associated with this should soon pass, if not, then consult a midwife or health care professional.

2. Hormonal Fluctuation

There are many instances where a women’s hormones may fluctuate, making their nipples hard and sore. Some of these instances are listed below:

  • Pregnancy

Hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, are rapidly produced during pregnancy. This increase in estrogen causes an increase in breast tissue, whilst the hormone progesterone matures the breast milk glands. These occurrences can lead one’s nipples to feel sore.

  • Postmenstrual Syndrome

Postmenstrual syndrome can cause sore nipples, as there is an increased (an imbalanced) level of estrogen within a women’s body. This imbalance is a common cause of nipples feeling hard and sore.

  • Pre-Menopause and Menopause

As you go through pre-menopause and menopause, both estrogen and progesterone will begin to decrease. In some instances, progesterone levels decrease faster than that of estrogen, leading to an imbalance and making estrogen the dominant hormone in your body (much like with cases of postmenstrual syndrome), leading to nipple harness and soreness.

3. Breast Allergy or Sensitivity

Certain stimuli can cause increased sensitivity to the region of your breasts, and possibly lead to feelings of harness and soreness. These stimuli include: soaps and shower gels, lotions, laundry detergents, fabrics, and hot or cold water. Other symptoms pertaining to this include redness, itching, and/or chapping.

4. Blocked Ducts

When the intricate system of ducts within the breast, responsible for the production of breast milk, becomes blocked, then you may experience nipple harness and soreness. Other symptoms associated with this include: a lump in the breast, as well as red, painful, and inflamed skin around the area. This can be avoided by ensuring to breast feed properly, as well as maintaining proper hygiene.

What to do: A warm compress or a gentle massage can help to ease the pain associated with blocked ducts. Over-the-counter medication, such as ibuprofen, may also prove effective.

5. Breast Rash

A breast rash causes the area of skin surrounding the breast to become red, flaky, itchy and sore. Bumpy spots filled with pus may also occur.

What to do: To help ease this condition, wear loose-fitting clothing and try as best you can to not scratch the area. If the condition is severe, it may be wise to visit your doctor.

6. Mastitis

This condition often affects those who are breastfeeding (although you may also be affected even when not breastfeeding). It is where the tissue of the breast becomes infected, leading to pain and soreness, as well as swelling, redness, increased warmth, fever or chills.

What to do: This is usually treated with antibiotics to eradicate the bacteria causing the infection, and painkillers to nullify any pain associated with the condition. Ensuring to breastfeed properly (with the right technique and position) will help to avoid this occurrence. If no improvement is noted after treatment, ensure to speak with your health care professional to best ascertain what to do next.

7. Paget’s Disease of the Nipple

Paget’s disease of the nipple is a rare disease that is often associated with breast cancer, accountable for around 1% of diagnosed cancers of this type. The exact cause for this is unknown, and it can make one’s nipples hard and sore. Other symptoms include: redness, itching, increased sensitivity, burning sensation, crusting, etc.

What to do: The most common type of treatment for this condition is surgery, which may also include sessions of radiotherapy.

8. Breast Cancer

Breast cancer can occur in both men and women. Symptoms include hard and sore nipples, a lump in the breast, discharge of blood from the nipple, a change in the shape, size and appearance of your breast, etc.

What to do: Treatments often include surgery to remove the tumor (lumpectomy), removal of the entire breast (mastectomy), radio therapy, chemotherapy, targeted drugs and hormonal therapy. 

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