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Why do Nipples Hurt? Understanding Causes and Treatments


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Why do Nipples Hurt? Understanding Causes and Treatments


Nipples are sensitive, and they can hurt for various reasons. In this article, we will explore the common causes of painful nipples and effective treatment methods.

Whether it’s due to tight clothes, skin conditions, menstrual periods, pregnancy, breastfeeding, infections, or concerns about breast cancer, understanding the reasons behind nipple soreness is essential.

Why do Nipples Hurt?

Poorly Fitting Clothes

One of the primary causes of nipple soreness is poorly fitting clothes. Ill-fitting shirts or bras can lead to friction and irritation against the nipples, particularly during activities like long-distance running.

To prevent this discomfort, it’s crucial to wear tops and bras that fit well. If you engage in activities that may exacerbate nipple chafing, consider protecting your nipples with waterproof bandages or nipple guards.

Treating Chafing and Irritation

If chafing causes soreness, applying an antibiotic ointment and covering the nipple with sterile gauze can aid in the healing process. Taking these steps can help ease discomfort and promote the healing of irritated skin.

Skin Conditions

Skin conditions such as dermatitis can also cause sore nipples. Dermatitis is often triggered by allergies or irritants present in the environment.

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, may result from dry skin, genetic factors, or immune system issues, while contact dermatitis arises from exposure to irritating substances like chemicals found in perfumes, soaps, or jewelry.

Effective Treatment for Dermatitis

To ease the soreness caused by dermatitis, various treatments can be employed. These include using steroid creams, immune system-calming creams or lotions, and light therapy (phototherapy).

If the condition is due to allergens or irritants, your doctor may recommend antihistamine pills, moisturizers, and corticosteroid creams. Additionally, taking oatmeal baths can provide relief.

Menstrual Periods

Sore nipples and breasts can be signs that your menstrual period is approaching. During this time, rising estrogen levels cause breast tissue to swell. The pain should subside once your period begins or shortly after.

Nipple Pain During Pregnancy

Hormonal changes during pregnancy can lead to nipple tenderness. In addition to nipple soreness, common signs of pregnancy include missed periods, nausea, fatigue, increased urination, and breast and nipple swelling.

To alleviate discomfort, consider choosing a well-fitting maternity bra and consult your doctor to identify safe pain relievers during pregnancy if needed.


Breastfeeding can also cause nipple pain, particularly when the baby latches on improperly. To ease soreness, consider gently squeezing out a few drops of milk and rubbing them over your nipples before nursing.

Applying a balm or lanolin ointment can also help. Ensuring your nipples air dry after each feeding and frequently changing breast pads can promote healing.

Additionally, wearing a comfortable cotton nursing bra that doesn’t rub against your nipples is advisable. Experimenting with different feeding positions can also enhance comfort.

Seeking Help for Proper Latch and Comfort

If you encounter difficulties achieving a good, non-painful latch, seeking assistance from your doctor or a lactation consultant can make adjustments to improve your comfort and your baby’s feeding experience.


Intense nipple pain could be an indication of an infection. Mastitis, a bacterial infection of the milk ducts, is most common during breastfeeding but can occur at other times too.

Symptoms of mastitis include fever, chills, redness or streaks on the breast, warmth, burning sensation, and swollen breasts. Antibiotics are typically required to treat mastitis effectively.

Thrush: A Common Yeast Infection

Thrush, a yeast infection of the breast and nipple, can occur during breastfeeding, especially if there are cracks in the nipple. Symptoms include stabbing, shooting, or burning pain in the nipples, redness on the nipples or breast, and dry or flaky skin around the nipple.

Both you and your baby may require antifungal treatment if infected.

Breast Cancer Concerns

While nipple pain can be a sign of breast cancer, it is rarely the primary symptom.

Instead, a painless lump in the breast is a more common indicator. Other signs of breast cancer include a nipple turning inward, redness or scaling of the skin over the breast or nipple, discharge from the nipple that isn’t breast milk, and swollen lymph nodes under the arm.

If you notice any of these changes, consult your doctor promptly. Men should also be vigilant, as they can also develop breast cancer.

Recommended: Understanding Painful Nipples: Causes, Care, and Treatment

Paget’s Disease: A Rare Form of Breast Cancer

Though rare, Paget’s disease is a form of breast cancer that affects only 1% to 4% of individuals with breast cancer.

It typically affects one breast and resembles dermatitis, with red, flaky, and itchy skin around the nipple.

Other symptoms may include a flat or turned-in nipple, yellow or bloody nipple discharge, and a lump in the breast. If you experience such symptoms, consult your doctor for further evaluation. Men should also seek medical advice if they notice any nipple changes.

Why do Nipples Hurt?


In conclusion, understanding the various causes of painful nipples is crucial for effective treatment and overall well-being. If you experience persistent nipple pain or any concerning symptoms, seek professional medical advice promptly to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.


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