What causes bleeding nipple?

Blood coming from the nipple can be symptomatic of benign (noncancerous) breast disorders such as breast tissue infection or a growth in the milk ducts. Bloody nipple discharge also can be a sign of breast cancer. Women who are breastfeeding may experience cracked nipples that can produce blood. Women who have undergone nipple piercing or any trauma to the skin of the breast may also experience bleeding as the piercing or injury heals.

Benign causes of bleeding nipple

Bleeding nipple may be caused by benign breast disorders including:

  • Breast tissue infection (mastitis)
  • Cracked or broken skin on the nipple
  • Intraductal papilloma (benign growth in the milk ducts)

External causes of bleeding nipple

Bleeding nipple can also be caused by:

  • Cracked or broken nipple from breastfeeding
  • Nipple piercing
  • Trauma

Serious causes of bleeding nipple

In some cases, bleeding nipple may be a symptom of a serious condition that requires prompt medical attention including:

  • Ductal or lobular breast cancer, including intraductal carcinoma in situ
  • Paget’s disease of the breast

Questions for diagnosing the cause of bleeding nipple

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your bleeding nipple including:

  • When did you first notice the bleeding nipple?
  • Are your nipples cracked or dry?
  • Are you experiencing any breast pain or discomfort?
  • Have you felt a lump on the affected breast or under the armpit?
  • Have you experienced other nipple discharge such as pus?
  • Are you experiencing bone pain?
  • Have you noticed any sudden changes in your weight?

What are the potential complications of bleeding nipple?

A potential complication of bleeding nipple is breast cancer. Because bleeding nipple can be an early sign of breast cancer, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Breast cancer
  • Breast deformity
  • Skin ulcerations and infections


  1. Breast cancer. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000913.htm.
  2. Breast cancer: early detection. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/moreinformation/breastcancerearlydetection/index.

What is bleeding nipple?

A bleeding nipple is bloody discharge from the nipple of the breast. Blood coming from the nipple can be symptomatic of a benign (noncancerous) breast disorder. These disorders include breast tissue infection, called mastitis, and intraductal papilloma. The latter is a small growth in the breast tubes that move milk to the nipple. These tubes are called ducts.

... Read more about bleeding nippleintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with bleeding nipple?

Bleeding nipple may accompany other symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Certain symptoms that occur along with bleeding nipple may be early signs of breast cancer.

Breast symptoms that may occur along with bleeding nipple

Bleeding nipple may accompany other symptoms affecting the breast. These are related to benign or ma... Read more about bleeding nipplesymptoms

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Jul 31, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Infections and Contagious Diseases

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