Nipples can change in appearance for several reasons. Some are normal, while others are abnormal and require medical attention. Nipple vasospasm is caused by constricted blood vessels and is the primary cause of purplish nipples in both men and women.
Other factors such as pregnancy, oral contraceptives, cancer, age, and breastfeeding, could also make your nipples appear purple. It is paramount to have vital information on the causes of purple nipples and when to worry.
Causes Of Purplish Nipples
Vasospasm occurs when blood vessels supplying the nipple get constricted, reducing blood flow. This could be caused by trauma to the nipple, especially when a child has not latched properly during breastfeeding. Ordinarily, it can be painful but takes a few minutes or seconds to clear away. If the pain goes on for a long time, you should seek medical advice. The predisposing factors of nipple vasospasm are family history, low BMI, and those women who tend to have cold fingers and feet. To reduce the risks of this constriction;
- Keep warm, especially in the nipple area.
- Latch the baby properly during breastfeeding.
- Use a nipple warmer during cold seasons.
During pregnancy, a woman’s body releases loads of hormones that cause physical and emotional changes. The nipples get sensitive and may appear purplish around the nipple or areola. Often after birth, the nipple acquires back its original color.
Our genetic formation affects our physical appearance. If there are members in your family with purplish nipples, there are increased chances of getting such. You will also likely pass the same nipple color to your children.
Contraceptives contain synthetic progesterone and estrogen which mimic signs of pregnancy and may thus cause the nipple to change its color to purple.
In puberty, hormones spike and cause imbalances which can lead to a teen’s nipples turning purple. It should not bother you unless the texture of the surrounding skin turns, has a discharge, is painful, or has a lump. It is important to reassure your daughter or son as this period is very confusing and slight changes could lead to behavioral changes.
When breastfeeding, ensure you latch the baby properly to avoid constriction of blood vessels, which reduces blood flow to the nipple. As the baby starts teething, he may bite the nipple and cause it to become purplish. The change of color could help a newborn see the nipple as infants identify objects through contrast stimuli.
Hairs Around The Nipple
Hairs around the nipple could make it appear darker. Though rare in women, it is common in men.
During the menstruation cycle, the hormonal levels in a woman keep on fluctuating. During ovulation, estrogen and progesterone rise and may cause the nipple’s color to change. However, it clears soon after ovulation.
As one advances in age, several physical changes occur. For instance, during menopause, a woman’s nipples are likely to change color. If color change is accompanied by other symptoms, you should see a doctor.
Some treatments and medications could lead to a change in nipple color. Breast surgery or the use of skin creams, for instance, could cause the nipple to tint.
Weight Loss Or Gain
Sudden, excessive weight loss or gain will affect the body’s appearance, and the nipple is not exempt. Color changes during such periods should not cause panic unless there are other complications.
Paget disease, the name given to cancer that affects the nipple, is rare and affects men and women though it’s more likely to affect a woman. Some signs of this disease are;
- Flatten nipples.
- Yellow or bloody discharge.
- Itching and tingling around the nipple.
- Thick or flaking, crusty skin.
If you see one or more of these signs, it is important to see a doctor for more advice and diagnosis.
When To See A Doctor
Changes in nipple color are a common occurrence. However, if the color change is accompanied by these signs highlighted here, you should see a doctor.
- When there is persistent pain in the nipple and the surrounding area.
- When the skin starts to peel off.
- When there is flaking of the skin.
- When the nipple gets persistently itchy.
- Redness around the nipple area.
- If you notice a lump in the breast.
- Discharge which could be clear, red, yellow, greenish, or gray.
- If the nipple has pus or a pungent smell.
- When there is a change in texture, size, or appearance of the nipple.
- Increase in hairs around the nipple.
- When the nipple appears inverted or retracted, more, when it happens suddenly.
Other Causes Of Painful Nipples
Apart from nipple vasospasm which causes the nipple to turn purplish and cause pain, there are other causes of nipple pains that you should not ignore.
- Skin conditions such as eczema and contact dermatitis.
- Infections such as mastitis and thrush.
- Tightly fitting clothing puts pressure on the nipple and causes it to be painful. The solution is to wear well-fitting clothes.
- Allergies to fabric that come into contact with the nipples. It could be best to put on underwear made of organic fibers.
- Menstrual periods. Many women get painful nipples during their monthly periods due to hormonal changes.
- Breast cancer. Though not the main symptom of breast cancer, a painful nipple with no substantive cause should make you want to see a doctor for cancer screening.
- Excessive heat or cold could irritate your nipples and thus make them painful.
- Breast abscess.
- Trauma to the nipple.
- Improper breastfeeding technique.
In conclusion, nipples can turn purplish due to hormonal imbalances, infections, or family history. Should the change of color be accompanied by pain, discharge, flaking or peeling of skin, redness, itchiness, or lump, you should seek medical attention.