Nipples, like people, come in many shapes and sizes. Many men and women suffer from nipple abnormalities, which may affect their body-image and self-esteem. You are not alone! Problems include inverted (or “shy”), enlarged, ill-defined or puffy nipples and areolas (the colored area surrounding the nipple). Some of these abnormalities may affect breast function, while all of them impact the way people feel about their body. There are simple surgical procedures that can help correct many of these common conditions.
It is important to realize that nipple problems are usually benign (not harmful) and not related to a medical condition. However, tenderness, swelling, lumps, inflammation, skin changes and discharge can also occur, and these symptoms may need further medical attention to determine whether other tests need to be performed.
Common nipple problems that are easily corrected with an outpatient surgical procedure include nipple inversion, nipple or areolar enlargement, and nipple puffiness. What most people consider the “nipple” is actually made up of 2 things: the projecting area of skin is called the “nipple”, while the darker, pigmented skin surrounding it is called the “areola”.
Nipple inversion affects 2% of all men and women. There are various degrees of how “shy” the nipples can be. Some individuals are born with inverted nipples, while others become inverted later in life. This can occur following breastfeeding, or sometimes as a result of a tumor pulling the nipple inward. Correction involves a simple surgery on the nipples that leaves minimal scarring and gives a natural appearance. The milk ducts are spared for future breastfeeding.
Another common abnormality is enlarged nipples or areolas. This can be present at birth, or it can happen after pregnancy or weight gain. There are simple procedures that can be used to safely minimize the size of nipples and areolas. If the nipple and areola are positioned too low on the breast (saggy breasts), a procedure called a “Mastopexy”, or breast lift, can be performed to perk up the breast and bring the nipple complex up into a more normal position. Nipple reduction can also be performed in conjunction with breast reduction and breast augmentations.
“Puffy” nipples can occur in women who have tubular-shaped breasts, and also may be present in some men. This is easily treated by making an incision around the areola, removing some of the pigmented skin (if needed), and lifting the areola skin up and decreasing the projection (puffiness).
There are simple surgical options to help your nipples, and make your breasts as beautiful as possible.
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