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Can Inverted Nipples Be Corrected?

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An inverted nipple is a condition where the normally protruding nipple is retracted at or below the surface of the areola all or most of the time. For many women, this is a source of great embarrassment, stress, and self-doubt. In fact, they will often take elaborate measures to conceal this “deformity,” including wearing padded bras or bulky clothing, avoiding social situations that involve wearing revealing clothing (such as dancing, going to the beach, or public showers), and even avoiding romantic relationships.

Fortunately, this condition is entirely correctable with a small, minimally invasive surgical procedure. 

What Are Inverted Nipples?

Inverted nipples are usually the result of congenitally shortened milk ducts and ligaments that prevent the nipples from projecting above the areola of the breast. This situation doesn’t usually become apparent until puberty. Other causes of this, though very uncommon, are scarring, physical trauma and breast cancer. Though estimates vary, the incidence of this has been reported to be around 10 percent of all women. 

How Are Inverted Nipples Corrected?

The procedure to correct inverted nipples is relatively simple. A small incision is made at the base of the nipple, and the restraining milk ducts and ligaments are divided, thereby removing the cause of retraction. This then allows the nipples to be able to project outward though they must be secured in that position so that it can be maintained. 

This procedure is conducted under local anesthesia and is relatively painless. 

Recovery is quick and easy, with many patients returning to work or school that same day. A light dressing will be applied for around two weeks, and pressure should be kept off the nipples for six to eight weeks. 

One downside to inverted nipple correction is the likelihood that patients will be unable to breastfeed following the procedure. If breastfeeding is important to you, be sure to mention that to your plastic surgeon during your consultation. Realize, though, that it can be difficult—if not impossible—for a baby to breastfeed if you have flat or inverted nipples even though the potential is there to do so.

How Are Inverted Nipples Associated With Cancer?

In some situations where a nipple inverts later in life, this may indicate that there is breast cancer present. If you notice the nipple on one of your breasts inverting, you should consult a doctor and obtain a mammogram. The etiology of this, in the case of breast cancer, is the cancer cells infiltrating the milk ducts and ligaments in the breast, leading to their deformity, which has a retracting effect on the nipple. 

Interested in Learning More?

If you are considering nipple inversion correction surgery, contact the Arizona Center for Breast Surgery to schedule your consultation with Dr. Turkeltaub. Reach us by calling (480) 451-3000 or filling out our online contact form.