Why Is My Nipple Bleeding
Nipples are sensitive parts of female anatomy — and they bleed too! For most women, it’s not unusual to experience light spotting here and there on occasion. If you notice any redness, swelling or changes in coloration that don’t go away after several days, however, you should consult your physician right away. In fact, if you see blood coming from your nipples, no matter how much time has passed since the incident, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Light spotting can be caused by all sorts of things, including hormonal fluctuations, pregnancy complications, liver disease, diabetes, medications and smoking cigarettes [sources: MayoClinic]. But if you have an active sex life (i.e., you’ve recently engaged in sexual intercourse) or you engage in other activities that could potentially damage your breasts’ ducts, such as sucking on hard candy or even just walking up stairs, then you may want to consider a more serious issue at play. This type of bleeding occurs when something irritates the milk-producing structures within your breast tissue. The culprit could be anything from a piece of clothing that rubbed against your chest all night long to a nasty bug that entered through one of your teats.
The good news is that once you get to the bottom of what’s causing your bloody discharge, you’ll know exactly what action to take to fix the problem. On the next page we’ll look at different types of nipple discharges so you can decide which scenario best applies to you.
Types of Nipple Discharge
There are three main categories of nipple discharge: clear fluid, milky fluid and bloody fluid. Clear fluids include colostrum, urine, water, saliva and tears; milky fluids consist of fat droplets known as chylomicrons and lymphatic fluid; and bloody fluids contain blood [sources: WebMD, MedlinePlus].
If you experience a clear liquid discharge, this is often normal. It’s called colostrum because new mothers produce it during their first few days postpartum. Colostrums help replenish the nutrients lost during birth and protect newborns from infection while they adjust to life outside the womb. Once the baby takes his or her first breath, mom will begin producing milk, also called lacteal secretions. These come in two forms: foremilk and hindmilk. Foremilk is thicker in texture than hindmilk and contains higher levels of calcium and protein. Newborns prefer foremilk due to its high level of sugars. Hindmilk, on the other hand, contains higher concentrations of fats and cholesterol.
Milk production typically begins around day 10 after delivery but varies among individuals. Most women produce between 4 and 15 quarts per week, with some going above 30 quarts, depending on how many times a day they nurse their babies. Women who pump their own breast milk may find they produce less than those who don’t.
When a woman experiences a bloody discharge, she might wonder what’s wrong. This normally happens when something rubs against the delicate skin surrounding the mammary glands, irritating them enough to create small cuts. When this occurs, tiny capillaries burst open, releasing blood into the area where it mixes with milk proteins. The resulting combination is referred to as prolactin. Prolactin acts as a signal telling the body to keep making milk and regulate ovulation. Some people call this condition galactorrhea.
Sometimes, though, these injuries occur without provocation. A woman with endometriosis, for example, may develop scar tissue in her breasts over time, causing painful sores that lead to bloody or cloudy nipple discharge. Other diseases affecting the breasts can trigger bleeding, including fibrocystic conditions and cancerous tumors.
If you suspect that a physical injury or underlying health condition is responsible for your bloody discharge, make sure you see your doctor. He or she will likely order tests to rule out potential problems. If nothing shows up during a routine examination, your doctor may refer you to an ob/gyn or another specialist who specializes in treating breast issues.
If you’d rather avoid the hassle of visiting a doctor, continue reading to learn about ways to stop your bloody discharge before it turns into a bigger problem.
If you experience bloody discharge accompanied by severe pain, fever, yellowing eyes or skin or muscle aches, you should contact your physician immediately. You might also want to watch for signs of ectopic pregnancy, which includes abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and vaginal cramps.
How to Stop Bloody Breast Milk
Even if you’re fortunate enough to only experience mild soreness or minor irritation when your nipples become inflamed, you can still prevent yourself from experiencing a bloody discharge altogether. Here are some tips to getting started:
Don’t smoke. Smoking cigarettes weakens lung function, which makes breathing harder and therefore increases the likelihood of injury to your breasts. Not only does smoking increase your risk of developing certain cancers, but it also causes inflammation that leads to infections, rashes, sores and burns.
Avoid harsh fabrics. Fabric softeners, laundry detergents, dryer sheets and household chemicals can all leave behind residue that dries out your skin, leading to irritated, peeling nipples. Instead, choose gentle cleansers and wear natural fibers whenever possible. Cotton bras are especially recommended. If you must use fabric softener, opt for unscented varieties. Also try using cotton balls instead of paper towels to clean up spills.
Wear supportive undergarments. Your nursing tank top probably isn’t doing you any favors. Wearing overly tight tops or ones made of materials that dig into your chest can also cause physical harm. Choose loose, comfortable clothes that allow room for movement. Wear a support bra if your bust size allows — this will provide extra support and reduce bounce. And don’t forget to wear a nursing cover-up when you venture outside.
Use lanolin cream. Lanolin is a moisturizer derived from sheep’s wool that provides soothing relief for dry, cracked nipples. Apply it directly onto the affected areas every morning.
For more information on bloody nipple discharge and related topics, check out the links on the following page.
To treat a cut or scrape on your chest, apply antibiotic ointment. If you think you have a bacterial infection, such as mastitis, antibiotics may be prescribed to fight the bacteria. Consult your doctor if the wound doesn’t heal properly or if it becomes infected.
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