Discharge from the nipple of the breast is known as nipple discharge. It is quite common to have nipple discharge during pregnancy and while nursing. Very seldom does nipple discharge occur in non-pregnant and non-breast-feeding women. There is no need to panic, but it is recommended that you have it evaluated by a doctor to be certain.
There is a possibility that your nipples or breasts can produce a nipple discharge without you squeezing your nipples or breasts. A milky, clear, yellow, green, brown, or crimson discharge may appear on a woman’s nipples. While there are differences in the discharge from your nipples, both types of discharge (milk and non-milk) pass through the same ducts. A single duct or numerous ducts can be involved in the discharge. Some discharges may be runny while others may be thick and gooey.
Causes of Nipple Discharge
Harmless nipple discharge can be caused by a variety of factors. Some of which include:
- Hormone imbalances
- Medications, including birth control pills and some antidepressants
- Nipple stimulation or friction from clothing
- Pregnancy or breastfeeding
- Sexual arousal
Often, nipple discharge stems from a benign condition. However, breast cancer is a possibility, especially if:
- You have a lump in your breast
- Only one breast is affected
- The discharge contains blood or is clear
- The discharge is spontaneous and persistent
- The discharge affects only a single duct
Conditions that may cause abnormal nipple discharge include:
- Breast abscess
- Breast cancer
- Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
- Endocrine disorders
- Fibrocystic breasts (lumpy or rope-like breast tissue)
- Injury or trauma to the breast
- Intraductal papilloma (a benign, wartlike growth in a milk duct)
- Mammary duct ectasia
- Paget’s disease of the breast
- Periductal mastitis
Types of Nipple Discharge
Doctors will frequently inquire about the discharge, particularly its color and consistency, in order to determine the cause.
The following are some of the most common types of nipple discharge:
Milky discharge: This tends to occur in women because they have recently stopped breastfeeding or because of hormonal changes in a premenopausal woman. This is the most prevalent type of nipple discharge.
Bloody discharge: A papilloma, a noncancerous tumor that irritates the tissue inside a breast duct, can produce blood discharge. Bloody discharge can be caused by breast cancer in rare cases.
Clear discharge: Breast cancer might manifest itself as a clear discharge from only one breast. Clear discharge from both breasts is normally not a cause for concern, but if a woman is worried, she should seek medical advice.
Green-tinged nipple discharge: This hue of discharge could be a sign of a draining cyst beneath the nipple or areola.
When To See The Doctor
If you have any new nipple discharge, nipple discharge that lasts longer than a single menstrual cycle, or if you have any of the following symptoms, see your doctor:
- Accompanies a lump
- Comes from one breast only
- Develops in a man or boy
- Happens without breast stimulation
- Is pink or bloody
- Occurs in women over age 40
Treatment of Nipple Discharge
A medical history and physical exam are used to diagnose nipple discharge. The following tests are used by doctors to determine the cause of the discharge:
- Imaging: Tests including mammography (breast X-ray), ultrasound, and MRI can help reveal a cause
- Biopsy: If the physical exam or imaging tests show any abnormality, a doctor takes a sample of breast tissue
- Blood tests: A doctor takes a blood sample to measure hormone levels
The treatment choices are determined by the cause of the discharge and the type of discharge. Doctors will diagnose and treat the underlying cause, which will typically solve the condition.