Why Don T My Nipples Get Hard
When a man ejaculates he expels semen from his penis through the action of muscles and nerves in the male reproductive system. When a woman ovulates she expels an egg cell from her ovary through the action of hormones and other chemicals produced by the female reproductive system. In both cases, these expelled materials are propelled out of the body under their own power without any assistance from the surrounding tissues.
The same cannot be said for a human infant. A baby’s first breath comes between its mother’s breasts as milk, which has been secreted into the ducts of the mammary glands, is sucked up into the mouth and down the small intestine where the digestive enzymes break down the proteins in the mixture of fats and carbohydrates. The food is absorbed into the blood stream, which carries it throughout the body while the liver converts some of the nutrients into glucose. These converted nutrients are carried by the blood back to the heart and pumped into various parts of the body such as the brain and genitals. As long as this process continues, the breast milk remains in the body. But once the infant begins eating solid foods, it no longer needs to suckle at its mother’s teats. Instead, it must be fed with a spoon. This means that the flow of milk from the gland must be interrupted. For this reason, the breasts become sore and tender during times of nursing.
A similar thing happens when a person exercises. Muscles contract involuntarily and produce lactic acid, which causes pain. The solution is to drink water, which dilutes the lactic acid and quenches the burning sensation. Similarly, if a person’s nipples do not become erect, then they are considered to be flat. And if the nipples retract, or become concave, they are considered to be inverted. True inverted or flat nipples will not become erect when stimulated or exposed to cold.
Inverted nippples occur most commonly in women who have had mastectomies. Because of the operation, there may be little fat tissue covering the chest area, making it difficult for the skin to retain moisture. Another problem can arise because the muscle connecting the chest wall to the breastbone often shrinks away after surgery. Without this important support, the chest may collapse inward on the breasts, forcing them downward toward the abdomen. Finally, the breasts themselves may be smaller than normal due to disease, malnutrition, or hormonal imbalance.
Nipple conditions vary widely among people but all can lead to hard, wrinkled, cracked, bleeding, or painful nipples. Some of these problems can be treated effectively with over-the-counter medications, while others require more serious forms of treatment.
Hard nipples appear dry and scaly. They may also feel hot or even red when touched. The condition is usually caused by prolonged exposure to sunlight or frequent use of tight fitting clothing. Nipple cracks develop when excessive pressure is exerted against the sensitive tips of the nipples. The cause of this stress may include wearing tight bras, working on one’s feet (stamping), carrying heavy loads, or standing bent over with hands extended forward. Many jobs also involve repetitive motion such as typing, knitting, sewing, and crocheting. All of these factors create friction and irritation that eventually leads to cracking.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding may also contribute to hardened nipples. During pregnancy, hormone levels rise dramatically, causing the breasts to grow larger and change shape. At about six weeks postpartum, increased production of prolactin prompts the breasts to secrete milk. Breastfeeding also produces large quantities of fluid, which makes the nipples swell. Swelling can make the nipples feel uncomfortable, especially if they have never been used before. Although lactation consultants claim that the discomfort disappears within a day or two, many mothers find that it lasts much longer.
Treatment includes changing the way you dress so that your clothes fit properly. Loosely draped shirts and blouses allow ample room for expansion of the chest wall and breasts. Avoid using brassieres that squeeze the breasts tightly together. Also, avoid rubbing, pinching, or squeezing the nipples. Wearing bra straps that dig into the shoulders and neck can also be very irritating. Using petroleum jelly is effective for relieving itching and inflammation.
Breastfeeding difficulties are common in some women. Painful engorgement occurs in approximately 10 percent of nursing mothers, often accompanied by leaking of colostrum. An enlarged subareolar cyst (boil) may form behind the areola. The cysts can sometimes be drained surgically. Infection may result if the drainage tube is left inside the breast for several days. To prevent infection, the tube should remain outside the breast until the drainages stops. Other complications include difficulty controlling the supply of milk, pain in the breast or nipple, and abscesses. Women who experience severe nipple pain, leakage, or swelling should consult their physicians immediately.
Women who have undergone bilateral oophorectomy (removal of both ovaries) are prone to inverted nipples. Such patients might benefit from administration of estrogen therapy. Surgery to correct the problem involves cutting off part of each breast. Surgeons remove fatty tissue and the connective tissue that surrounds the breasts and connects them to the chest wall. The procedure takes about four hours per side and requires general anesthesia. Recovery time typically ranges from three to five days.
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