What Causes Bumps on Your Nipple?

Medically Reviewed By Angelica Balingit, MD
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There are many possible causes of bumps on your nipples. Many of them are nothing to be concerned about, but others may require immediate medical treatment. Some bumps naturally occur on the areola, the area of dark skin around your nipples. These bumps are called Montgomery’s glands. They produce fluid that moisturizes your nipples. Yet many other conditions, like breast cancer and acne, can also cause bumps on your nipples.

This article explains the causes of bumps on your nipples and their treatments.

Breast cancer

 woman in a bra is holding flowers
Aleksey Tugolukov/EyeEm/Getty Images

The most common symptom of breast cancer is a new mass or lump. Other symptoms include:

  • nipple retraction
  • nipple or breast skin that is dry, flaking, or discolored
  • nipple discharge that is not breast milk
  • breast or nipple pain
  • swelling in all or part of the breast
  • swollen lymph nodes under the arm or at the collarbone

If you notice any changes to your nipples or breasts, contact your doctor for an exam.

Read about breast cancer.

Treatment

Treatment for breast cancer depends on the stage of cancer, how far it has spread, and your overall health. Treatment options include:

Work with your doctor to develop the most effective treatment plan for you.

Read about breast cancer treatment.

Acne

Acne is a highly common skin condition. It causes oily skin and spots, and it can make your skin hot and painful to the touch.

People most commonly develop acne on the face. It can also appear on your back. In around 15% of people with acne, it can appear on the chest.

Read more about acne.

Treatment

The goal of acne treatment is to:

  • clear existing spots and lesions
  • stop new ones from forming
  • prevent scarring

Treatment medications may be topical or oral. Speak with your doctor about which treatment options may be the most effective for you.

Eczema

Eczema of the nipples appears as an itchy, scaly, and irritated rash. It is typically due to irritation caused by:

  • articles of clothing
  • perfumes
  • soaps
  • laundry detergents
  • lotions

If you have persistent eczema-like symptoms that do not go away with treatment, speak with your doctor about the possibility of Paget’s disease.

Read more about eczema.

Treatment

Generally, eczema of the nipples will clear up once you identify what product is irritating your skin and stop using it.

Milk blisters

A milk blister, or bleb, is a spot on the nipple that can occur when you are nursing. These blisters look similar to friction blisters. They may have a bit of blood behind them. They may also appear as flat patches of white on your nipple. They may be painful but are not always.

The exact cause of milk blisters is unknown. However, they likely happen when your baby rubs your nipple against the hard palette in their mouth.

This may be due to attachment issues. Speak with your doctor about getting help with position and attachment while nursing.

Treatment

Some milk blisters may look like a hardened plug at the end of the nipple. For these types, you can try gently rubbing them with a washcloth in the shower or with a bit of oil. This can help the milk behind the blockage flow, though it may appear a bit thickened.

If the blister appears as a thin layer of skin blocking the opening of your nipple, removing the skin and opening it back up can help. However, to help decrease the risk of infection, it is better for a doctor to do this rather than you trying it yourself.

Ingrown hair

Ingrown hairs are hairs that have grown back into the skin. This typically causes raised red or discolored spots on your skin. These bumps can become infected.

Ingrown hairs are more common in people with coarse or curly hair, but anyone can get them. They may be more common in areas where you might shave, such as the:

  • face
  • armpits
  • pubic area
  • legs

They can also occur in your chest area, especially if you have a lot of hair or you shave the area.

Read about ingrown hairs.

Treatment

Often, ingrown hairs will go away on their own. You should try to avoid picking at or scratching at your ingrown hairs or the bumps that may form.

Montgomery’s tubercles

Montgomery’s tubercles, or Montgomery’s glands, are glands on your areola that can appear as bumps. They can look similar to goosebumps.

These glands help moisturize the skin of the nipples and help to protect against infection. They can vary in size from person to person.

They may appear more prominent in early pregnancy due to hormonal changes. However, other hormonal changes can also cause them to appear more noticeable, such as:

Treatment

Generally, Montgomery’s tubercles are nothing to be concerned about. They are completely naturally occurring glands that change with your hormones.

Paget’s disease

Paget’s disease of the breast is a rare type of breast cancer. This type of breast cancer involves the skin of the nipple and areola. Typically, Paget’s disease affects only one breast.

Symptoms of Paget’s disease include:

  • crusty or scaly skin
  • redness or discoloration
  • bloody or yellow discharge from the nipple
  • a flat or inverted nipple
  • itchiness or a burning feeling

Read about Paget’s disease.

Treatment

Paget’s disease of the breast is typically treated with surgery. This is usually a mastectomy, which is removing the entire breast, or breast-conserving surgery. Generally, this is followed by radiation therapy.

When to contact a doctor

You should tell your doctor about any changes you notice to your nipples or breasts. Often, bumps on or around your nipples are nothing to be concerned about. However, they can be a sign of a serious condition.

Your doctor can examine the area and give you a proper diagnosis. They can also go over all your treatment options.

Summary

Bumps on your nipples can be caused by naturally occurring glands. They can also be a sign of breast cancer or Paget’s disease of the breast. Conditions like eczema and acne can also cause bumps on or around your nipples.

Some of the causes require little to no treatment. Other causes may require medical treatment. Speak with your doctor about any changes you notice in your nipples or breasts.

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Medical Reviewer: Angelica Balingit, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 Nov 30
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