What causes nipple itch?

Nipple itch is a common symptom of allergies, inflammation, or even physical irritation, which is characterized by a tingling, irritating or uneasy sensation on the surface of the skin. It may occur in conditions affecting the nipple area itself or in association with more generalized conditions, such as hives or eczema.

Other common causes of nipple itch include chemical irritants such as soap and laundry detergent, dry skin, and medication side effects. In rare cases, nipple itch is a symptom of breast cancer. During pregnancy, nipple itch may be accompanied by swelling and discharge.

Skin causes of nipple itch

Nipple itch may be caused by skin disorders including:

  • Atopic dermatitis (skin inflammation caused by an allergen)
  • Contact dermatitis (localized skin irritation caused by contact with a particular substance)
  • Dry skin
  • Eczema (skin inflammation or irritation)
  • Sunburn

Other causes of nipple itch

Nipple itch can also have other causes including:

  • Allergies
  • Breast cancer
  • Drug allergy to a medication such as penicillin or codeine
  • Food allergies (allergic reaction to certain foods)
  • Insect bite allergy, such as to a bee sting
  • Medication side effects
  • Paget’s disease of the breast (uncommon form of cancer that affects the nipple)
  • Parasite infestation such as scabies
  • Pregnancy

Serious or life-threatening causes of nipple itch

In some cases, nipple itch, in combination with a change the level of consciousness, severe abdominal pain, or sudden swelling of the face, lips or tongue, may be a symptom of anaphylaxis, a serious or life-threatening condition which should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting.

Questions for diagnosing the cause of nipple itch

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

  • When did you first notice the nipple itch?
  • Is the itch localized to the nipple, or does it affect a larger area?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of nipple itch?

Because nipple itch can be due to serious diseases, 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:

  • Anaphylaxis (life-threatening allergic reaction)
  • Severe discomfort or pain
  • Spread of cancer

References:

Itching. MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/itching.html. Accessed May 24, 2011.

Rashes. MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/rashes.html. Accessed May 24, 2011.

INTRODUCTION

What is nipple itch?

Nipple itch is a common symptom of allergies, inflammation, or even physical irritation, and is characterized by a tingling, irritating or uneasy sensation on the surface of the skin. It may occur in conditions that affect the nipple area itself or in association with more generalized conditions, such as hives or eczema. Read more about nipple itchintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with nipple itch?

Nipple itch may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the breasts may also involve other body systems.

Breast symptoms that may occur along with nipple itch

Nipple itch may accompany other symptoms affecting the breast including:

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 7, 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: Allergies and the Immune System