Itchy nips are pretty common and can be caused by hormonal conditions or underlying conditions.
Nipples are sensitive at the best of times. But itchy nipples? That’s a real pain in the tits.
If your nipples are tingly — and not in an I-tried-a-new-arousal-oil way — there are a handful of common culprits.
Let’s find out why you’ve got irritated nipples, then figure out how to stop the itch.
Every nipple contains an elaborate network of blood vessels and nerve endings. That’s what makes them such sensitive little suckers — and prone to itchiness.
Common causes of nip itch:
- hormone-related sensitivity
- yeast infection
Folks with periods often experience shifts in prolactin, estrogen, and progesterone right around Aunt Flo‘s scheduled visit. Exactly how much the hormone levels change depends on a mess of factors, including whether the person is breastfeeding.
Hormone-related nipple sensitivity sometimes includes…
- small bumps or pimples (fun, right?)
Some folks’ boobs also swell during this hormonal shakeup. A boob boost can make bras and shirts feel tighter, triggering chafing and — you guessed it — itchiness.
Bottom line: It’s pretty common for nipples to itch before or during your flow.
Those hormones that instigate a scratch attack during PMS week? They rage during pregnancy too.
A 2013 research survey found that more than 75 percent of pregnant peeps experience breast discomfort. Of course, tender melons ≠ itchy nips. But an uptick in sensitivity could make minor itchiness feel major.
Some other possible causes:
- Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP). This itchy rash rears its head during pregnancy. In addition to irritating your nipples, it can cause bumps and hives on your skin.
- Pregnancy-related eczema. Dry, cracked, flaky patches around your nipples could signify (drumroll please…) pregzema. So pesky, so common.
- Prurigo. Sometimes your immune system freaks out about all the hormone shifts. Enter prurigo, which can cause itchy bumps all over your body (nipples included).
- Boob growth. Growing a baby makes your boobs grow too. Your boobs (and nips) might feel itchy as your skin stretches.
In rare cases, itchy nipples might be a symptom of Paget’s disease, a type of breast cancer.
While nipple irritation isn’t a common sign of cancer, it’s still important to pay attention. Breast cancer can affect people of all sexes and ages. And early detection can be lifesaving.
Talk with your doc if you notice any of these symptoms along with your itchy nipples:
- a lump in your breast tissue
- nipple flattening or inversion
- yellow or bloody nipple discharge
- thickened, scaly, or flaky skin around the itchy nipple
- sudden, intense itchiness that only affects one nipple
A note: Folks born male-bodied are less likely to get breast cancer. But since they’re also not predisposed to childbirth or breastfeeding, unusually itchy nipples warrant your attention.
Most nipple itchiness can be traced to hormones and other reproduction-related jazz.
But here are some other reasons you might feel the urge to scratch.
Dermatitis = irritated skin. It’s a blanket term used to describe everything from eczema to a nickel allergy.
Two main types of dermatitis can cause nip itch: atopic dermatitis (AD) and contact dermatitis (CD).
- Atopic dermatitis. This type of eczema appears without a clear cause. Most AD cases are chronic, and according to some estimates, 11 to 23 percent of folks with AD get flare-ups in the nipple region. Breastfeeding might be a key trigger.
- Contact dermatitis. This is an allergic reaction. Irritants include specific soaps, lotions, fabric content, or even irritation from sweat. If your nips tend to get itchy after wearing that bra, you might have textile contact dermatitis.
A yeast infection — aka thrush — is usually associated with vaginal health. But your vag isn’t the only warm, moist spot. If you’re sitting around with a sweaty sports bra or damp clothes, you might be in for a round of breast thrush.
Some signs of a nipple-y yeast infection:
- a shiny raised rash on or around your nipples
- cracked or bleeding nipples
- shooting pains in your nipples, especially if you’re breastfeeding
If you think you have breast thrush, talk with your doctor. You’ll need antifungal meds — both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription, depending on severity.
Mastitis = boob inflammation. It’s common among lactating women because clogged milk ducts can cause major pain and swelling. Nonlactational mastitis is less common, but it’s still a thing.
Signs of mastitis:
- warm, tender breasts
- painful swelling
- abnormal nipple discharge
Mastitis is unpleasant, but it’s treatable. Some folks recover with pain relievers, rest, and hydration. Others need antibiotics.
Some cases of nip itch need direct attention — like using antifungal meds for thrush or antibiotics for severe mastitis.
But if there’s no underlying condition to treat, you can still soothe the itch. Here are some ways to get sweet relief:
- Air ’em out. If your itchiness coincides with sweat or tight clothing, your nips might need room to breathe. Wear a loose shirt. Nix the bra. Sleep naked.
- Apply anti-itch cream. Even an ultra-moisturizing lotion after a shower can help itchy nipples.
- Assess your skin care products. Look for packaging and labels that tout moisturizing qualities or say “sensitive skin.” Avoid harsh soaps, perfumes, deodorants, or body washes.
- Take a warm shower. Not hot, not cold. Just rinse away sweat, grime, or irritating products for 5 to 10 minutes. Dry yourself gently by patting rather than rubbing with a clean towel. Limit your showers to a couple of times per day — too much water can be an irritant too.
Sometimes nipples itch just because they’re dry or sensitive. Sometimes there’s more to it.
Talk with your doc ASAP if you develop these symptoms:
- extreme itchiness that does not go away with OTC topical treatment
- yellow, brown, or bloody nipple discharge
- cracked or bleeding nipples
- thickening skin around the nipple
- changes in the texture or shape of your nipples
- persistent nipple or boob pain that does not seem tied to your menstrual cycle
It’s normal for nipples to itch from time to time. In most cases, itchy nipples are caused by hormonal shifts, breastfeeding, or exposure to an irritant or allergen.
Sometimes itchy nipples can be traced to a skin condition like eczema or an inflammatory condition like mastitis. In rare instances, itchy nipples could be a symptom of breast cancer. But you’d likely experience other concerning symptoms along with irritated nipples.
If you’re concerned about your itchy nipples, speak with a healthcare professional. They can help you pinpoint the cause and offer tips for soothing the itch.