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What causes inverted nipples?

Nipple inversion usually occurs during fetal development because a small nipple base or constricted milk ducts develop, pulling the nipple inward. Sometimes, it can occur after childbirth if the milk ducts scar during breastfeeding. The condition affects about 2 percent of women, or 18 women out of every 1,000, although some estimates put it much higher, at about 10 percent of women. It can involve one or both nipples.

Doctors grade inverted nipples according to three levels:

  • Grade I inverted nipples can "pop out" when exposed to cold or during arousal, or be manually popped out.
  • Grade II nipples can be pulled out, but not as easily as grade I and the nipple retracts quickly.
  • Grade III nipples are severely inverted and it is very difficult to pull them out manually.

Unless the inverted nipples occur suddenly, which could be a sign of breast cancer, they are in no way a health problem. However, they can become irritated and inflamed, and become a source of distress because of the way they look. Additionally, if you want to breastfeed, inverted nipples could cause difficulties.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.