Are My Nipples Normal?

Light glowing through an orange slice - looks like a nipple

My patients worry about how their bodies look all the time, and one of the biggest areas of concern is one of the smallest—their nipples. Functional and sexual at the same time, nipples are pretty wondrous things that still generate lots of attention (in and out of bed). Some nipple knowledge I share with my patients:

* Shape and size can change over time. After pregnancy, not only the nipples but the areolas (the ring of colored skin around the nipple) can get bigger and may change color. Brown, pink, red, even purple—I’ve seen them all, and they’re all normal.

* Most of us have “outie” nipples, but a few of us have inverted nipples (that are shy until aroused). If your nipples have turned inward forever, no worries. But if one has suddenly ducked inside, see your doc for a check-up—it may be the first sign of a lump or cancer.

* Having a third nipple is not common, but is no cause for distress.

* Hair around the areola is normal, though you may find it unsightly.  Feel free to pluck away, or stay au natural.

* Glands around the areola can get blocked and form a small cyst—sort of like nipple pimples.  Try warm compresses, or even a topical acne medication. If the cyst becomes angry-looking or painful, see your doc.

* Nipple discharge can be normal, or it can be a sign of a hormonal imbalance. If discharge comes from both breasts, or only when you squeeze your nipple, there’s little need for concern. But if your nipple discharge happens on its own (you may see staining in your bra or clothing), on only one side, or it’s bloody, see your doctor for an exam.

* If you decide to get one (or both) of your girls pierced, please be careful. Like piercings anywhere on your body, you risk bleeding and infection. Make sure your piercer has experience and uses sterile instruments.