Abnormal Nipple Discharge

Background 

Nipple discharge refers to any fluid that seeps out of the nipple of the breast. Nipple discharge during pregnancy or breastfeeding is normal however it happens less commonly in women who aren’t pregnant or breast feeding. It can affect both men and women and it might  of cause of concern because of underlying breast disease. You might have to squeeze the nipple for the fluid to come out or it may seep out on its own. 

Abnormal discharge may vary in appearance depending on the cause. It may be accompanied with swelling, redness, sores and retracted nipple. 

Cause of nipple discharge 

There are many different potential causes for nipple discharge. Women can experience nipple discharge anywhere from 2-3 years after she stops breast feeding.

Common causes: 

  • Excessive Nipple stimulation
  • Fibrocystic Breast 
  • Endocrine Disorder
  • Breast Infection or Abscess (Severe Infection)
  • Injury or Trauma History to Breast
  • Side-effect of taking birth control pills 
  • Hormone disorder caused in the pituitary gland 
  • Periductal Mastitis
  • Under active thyroid gland
  • Breast Cancer

 Medications causing nipple discharge

  • Antidepressants
  • High Blood pressure medicines
  • Sedatives
  • Anise
  • Fenugreek
  • Drugs like Marijuana and Cocaine

Causes of nipple discharge in Men

  • Testosterone deficiency
  • Pituitary Tumour
  • Cancer of breast
  • Gynecomazia (Condition causing breast enlargement or tenderness)

As this condition is less common in men, they should visit  the clinician or surgeon immediately if they experience nipple discharge.

Common symptoms of Abnormal Nipple Discharge

Nipple discharge could be in various colours and the colour helps us to conclude what could be the possible cause of the condition. 

ColourCauses
BloodyPapilloma or breast cancer
Brown Blocked Milk Duct
GreenCysts
White, Cloudy or filled with pusInfection of breast or nipple
ClearBreast Cancer especially if it is from one breast

Associated symptoms with Nipple discharge 

  • Redness
  • Breast pain or tenderness
  • Nipple changes like Colour change, itching or scaling.
  • Fever
  • Missed Period
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Lump or swelling of breast
  • Change in size of breast

Diagnosis and investigations 

If the women experience above said symptoms which continue for several weeks then she should consult the clinician or surgeon. Especially if she experiences symptoms associated with breast cancer.

  • Discharge that continues for several days
  • Swelling under the armpit or around the collarbone
  • A palpable lump in the breast
  • Discharge from only one breast

A clinician will do the required physical examination and will ask woman about her symptoms and may suggest mammogram or ultrasound for further study. If a person has a family history of breast cancer should never delay its consultation. A needle biopsy may be done to evaluate the breast lump associated with nipple discharge. 

Treatment of  Abnormal Nipple Discharge

The treatment option will majorly depend upon the cause. 

  • Infections are usually treated with antibiotics, if severe infection is found drainage of the sinus or abscess is often required.
  • Intraductal Papillomas are surgically removed if they are symptomatic. 
  • Aspiration or excision of breast cysts may be done for Fibrocystic disease.
  • Treatment option for breast cancer include surgery as will as chemotherapy and radiation
  • Discharge during  pregnancy, breastfeeding or hormonal changes are considered normal unless there is alternative changes in breast. 

Consult the best team of General and Breast surgeons available at The Surgeons House (SHL) in different global locations, please click the link for more details.

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