An inverted nipple is a nipple that points inwards towards the breast rather than pointing outwards. Inverted nipples are relatively common, affecting around 20% of both men and women. One or both sides may be affected. Although the problem is mainly cosmetic, in some women it can affect their ability to breastfeed.
Some nipples are usually inverted, but can be stimulated sexually or when they become cold. Others may be permanently inverted. Inverted nipples may also be ‘flat’, where they neither protrude or invert from the areola.
What causes inverted nipples?
Inverted nipples usually develop during puberty and are the result of short milk ducts. If you have had an inverted nipple since puberty, there is unlikely to be an underlying medical problem. Sometimes the natural drooping of the breasts can cause nipple inversion if the milk ducts do not stretch fast enough.
Nipples can also lose their projection due to a number of reasons including breast feeding, trauma, ageing (breast sagging) or after major weight loss.
How is recognised?
When the nipple loses its projection, it becomes retracted. This can vary in severity depending how difficult it is to pull the nipple out and how easy for it to retract back to its inverted state.
How can inverted nipples be treated?
Surgery is the only way to permanently treat inverted nipples. The procedure can be done under local anaesthesia. This involves a vertical cut in the areola in the bottom of the nipple in order to create a triangular tongue of tissue to be placed under the nipple and sutured to the opposite side. The cut is then closed with some dissolvable sutures.
Inverted Left Nipple Before
Inverted Left Nipple After
Inverted Right Nipple Before
Inverted Right Nipple After
What is the recovery like after surgery?
The procedure is performed under local anaesthesia and you will be able to go home straight after your procedure.
The protective dressing will be removed after one week when we would expect the wound to have healed.
Most patients will be able to commence their normal activities after a week from the surgery.
What are the potential complications?
Although complications following surgery are rare, the main drawback is the inability to breast feed following this operation. The ducts that connect the nipple opening to the breast glands (milk ducts) will have to be cut in order to correct the inversion.
The second possible problem is altered nipple sensation. This can be temporary or permanent!
Recurrence of the inversion is possible after surgery. However, this technique has demonstrated good long-term correction.