Symptoms

Painful nipples: nipple pain


Causes of aching nipples and breasts

Painful nipples and breasts can have a variety of causes. Abrasive clothing as well as inflammation or benign knots are possible triggers. In most cases, the symptoms can be traced back to hormonal factors, with women particularly affected during pregnancy and lactation. In particular, if there are visible changes in the nipples and escaping fluid outside of breastfeeding, a medical examination should be carried out in good time to rule out malignant tumors (breast cancer).

Textiles can cause nipple pain

The nipple (nipple) and areola are very sensitive to touch, as the tissue is crisscrossed by numerous nerve endings. For this reason, physical influences, such as rough or scratchy textiles, can already cause pain in the area of ​​the nipples. The same applies to items of clothing that have been worn for a long time without any problems. Because these can change their structure due to wear and frequent washing and can suddenly irritate the sensitive nipple skin.

Painful nipples due to inflammation

If there is an inflammation behind the nipple or chest pain, it is often an inflammation of the breast. Women are almost always affected, especially during early breastfeeding. Inflammation that is associated with the symptoms described and is limited to the nipples is called "thelitis".

Inflammation of the mammary gland

About 70% of women in the puerperium affect breast inflammation (mastitis), while the remaining 30% of cases arise outside of this time. Inflammation of the mammary gland usually develops unilaterally after the breastfeeding of the newborn has caused small tears in the sensitive nipple skin. Germs from the environment or from the mouth and throat of the baby are granted access to the tissues of the mammary gland and lymph nodes. The pathogens are often offered a favorable milieu by additional milk jams.

A few days after delivery, the affected women complain of painful nipples and a feeling of tension in one or both breasts, which feel warm to hot and red in the inflamed areas. The women generally feel sick and exhausted, and high fever and chills often occur. It is also possible that abscesses form and lymph node swelling is palpable under the armpits.

Outside of the puerperium, the inflammation of the mammary gland often arises from small injuries, which then act as an entry point for germs. If there are cysts or tissue growth, secretion flow or secretion build-up can be beneficial factors.

Other causes include thyroid dysfunction such as hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism and breast cancer. Parallel to the pain and increased sensitivity to pressure, there is often a milky or bloody discharge.

Chest pain caused by hormonal changes

It's not just because of breastfeeding that women are affected much more often than men. Other hormonal changes in female development and transition phases are often accompanied by pain and tension in the breasts or itchy nipples. These include breast growth during puberty, pregnancies and monthly menstruation, which is often accompanied by period pain.

Lumps and aching nipples

If palpable nodules are associated with the pain, a specialist examination is required immediately. This should urgently clarify whether the painful thickening hides an inflammation of the breast, an abscess, a benign tumor or breast cancer (breast cancer). If painful abscesses develop in later stages of mastitis or thelitis, these can sometimes be felt as nodules. With an abscess there is a risk of bacteria scattering into the blood, which can lead to blood poisoning.

If the pain occurs immediately before menstruation and individual breast lumps are palpable, a benign tumor may be present. This - known as mastopathy - remodeling reaction in the connective tissue of the breast is the result of a hormonal imbalance and affects about 30 to 50% of all women, especially those aged 35 to 55. Another benign tumor that can form from glandular and connective tissue in the breast is the so-called "fibroadenoma".

Malignant diseases

The reasons for the complaints are harmless in many cases, but can also be signs of a serious illness. A malignant carcinoma of the breast usually does not hurt itself when palpated, but can be accompanied by a painful inflammation. Inflammation (outside of the puerperium), whether it concerns the nipple or mammary gland, should not least be examined by a medical specialist.

Paget's disease of the nipple and nipple atrium can be hidden behind a unilateral, slowly growing inflammatory redness. It is a rarely occurring cancer that manifests itself as itching, oozing, scaly crusts, discharge from the nipple and later also knot formation and often indicates a deeper carcinoma.

When is breast cancer suspected?

Breast cancer is suspected, among other things, if, in addition to the palpable nodule, there are bloody secretions from the nipple and changes in the same. According to the German Cancer Society, this is the case, for example, when the nipple suddenly appears as if it has been “pulled inwards”. The same applies to newly appearing skin symptoms such as large pores or "orange peel", non-subsiding redness and inflammation. If suddenly a difference in the size of the breasts becomes recognizable, this is also a reason to see a doctor, according to the experts.

Treatment options

Treatment always depends on the cause. In the case of sore, irritated nipples, the compatibility of different clothing and underwear can be observed. The nipples should be kept supple with oil or ointments, and nursing pads can also be used at times.

In order to prevent inflammation in the puerperium, care should be taken consistently to hygiene and intensive nipple care, e.g. with marigold ointment or evening primrose oil. Sometimes using nursing hats or optimizing breastfeeding techniques can help. A midwife is certainly the best contact for this area.

Inflammation of the mammary glands and nipples is treated conventionally with antibiotics. In abscesses, a skin incision is sometimes made to drain the pus.

Home remedies and naturopathy for nipple pain

On the outside, cooling envelopes that are prepared with arnica, chamomile or other anti-inflammatory medicinal plants help with inflammation. Curd wraps or the fresh juice from leaves of aloe vera have a healing and cooling effect and can therefore be very beneficial for sensitive breasts.

Instructions for curd wrap
  1. Take the curd out of the refrigerator before use and let it warm up a bit
  2. Spread a large compress or a cloth diaper about 0.5 cm thick with it
  3. Place the wrap with the curd side directly on the chest
  4. Alternatively, the sides of the cloth can be wrapped so that a package is created
  5. The wrap remains on the chest until it is completely warmed up
  6. Quark residue can simply be wiped off with a damp cloth

Danger: If the condition is perceived as unpleasant or if there are allergic skin reactions, the curd should be washed off immediately.

Malignant diseases can be accompanied with conventional treatment with methods from naturopathy. Biological cancer therapy tries to support conventional medicine therapy with the most varied naturopathic methods. For example, it integrates vitamin and mineral supplements, homeopathy, acupuncture, milieu therapy and hypnotherapy in order to activate the body's own self-healing powers and to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

Another naturopathic procedure, which is now often used to accompany alternative medical cancer therapy, is mistletoe therapy.

Overall, the area of ​​the so-called "complementary healing methods" is very large and at the same time confusing, so that it is often impossible to see what is actually behind the names. A new information portal on alternative cancer healing methods should remedy this. The portal of the Competence Network for Complementary Medicine in Oncology (KOKON) offers support to those affected by offering understandable texts with background information on various treatments. (jvs, nr)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Swell:

  • Julie S. Moldenhauer: Mastitis, MSD Manual, (accessed 02.09.2019), MSD
  • German Cancer Society: Breast Cancer - Symptoms, Onko Internetportal, (accessed 02.09.2019), ONKO
  • Mary Ann Kosir: Mastalgia (chest pain), MSD Manual, (accessed 02.09.2019), MSD
  • Gregory L. Wells: Paget's disease of the Mamille, MSD Manual, (accessed 02.09.2019), MSD


Video: How to Breastfeed: Treating Sore Nipples from Breastfeeding (October 2021).