The appearance of skin problems on the nipple or areola area is alarming, and a cause for concern. Whereas the formation of scabs on nipples is mostly associated with breastfeeding mothers, the condition can also occur among women who are not breastfeeding. Breast lesions are often difficult to diagnose.
Moreover, the issue becomes challenging when there is pain or soreness. It is advisable to consult a dermatologist to get a proper diagnosis as to what is causing the scab. In most cases, they may be due to exposure to harsh weather, or frequent swimming in a chlorinated pool. This exposure coupled with improper moisturizing of the skin, may lead to dry, flaky skin. In return, the skin on the nipple area may crack, leading to the formation of scabs.
A scab formation usually indicates a healing process. A scab is a protective shield that forms over a wounded area on the skin. This shield protects the wound from infection and gives it time to heal. Therefore, it is advisable not to pluck out the scab. Here are some of the factors that could cause the formation of a scab/or scabs on nipples.
Below are the most common causes of scabbing of this part of your breasts.
This is the most common cause of scab formation among breastfeeding mothers. In most instances, some pain and soreness may accompany breastfeeding. The pulling of the areola by the baby during feeding can make it to be sore, and cracked. The cracked skin may form scabs in a bid to heal the skin from the damage.
Nipple problems during breastfeeding are common and temporary. You can consult a lactation physician to advice you on what to do. In some cases, you may have to resort to pumping out the milk as the nipples heal.
Scabs on nipples during pregnancy
The areola (the skin around the nipple), usually undergoes several changes during pregnancy. These changes include their enlargement, thicker skin, or variations in color. The changes are the body’s way of preparing for breastfeeding. However, these changes can lead to breast soreness, and skin cracks which may form scabs.
The second factor that can lead to scabs appearing in the nipple area during pregnancy is the early leakage of colostrum. It is common for women to leak colostrum, especially during the third trimester. This event can lead to cracks that, in turn, form scabs. Also, the dried colostrum can have a scab-like appearance.
Paget’s disease is a type of cancer that affects the nipple. The symptoms of the condition include itching or redness in the areola, discharge from the areola, flaky or crusty skin on the nipple area, and the appearance of scabs on the nipple.
A number of factors can cause breast ulceration. These factors include breast piercing, blockage of the milk ducts during breastfeeding, infection, Paget’s disease, breast cancer, radiation therapy, wearing tight-fitting bras, and poor skin hygiene. Breast ulcer can trigger areola lesions. These lesions later develop into scabs.
This type of dermatitis can trigger the formation of red, scaly, cracked nipples. Breast eczema can affect the nipples or the surrounding skin leading to the cracked/fissured skin. The painful fissures can form scabs as the body tries to heal.
There are people whose occupation, or lifestyle puts them at risk of injuring the breast area. For instance, the jogger’s nipple is common among runners, cyclists, and surfers. Here, the outfit worn by the cyclist may irritate the skin leading to chaffing.
For surfers, the friction caused by being close to the surfboard may lead to chaffing. A recent study discovered that nipple fissures are likely to occur among long-distance runners. Similarly, any injury in this area, including nipple piercing, can lead to irritated skin forming scabs.
Getting intimate with your “sweetheart” can lead to cracked breasts. It occurs from sucking on them, leading to the formation of fissures.
Breast lesions from Herpes
There are instances where one can develop herpes sore on the nipples. You can get herpes simplex from sucking on the nipples by a partner. This condition leads to the appearance of tiny blisters on a reddened nipple. As the blisters heal, they form scabs.
How can you deal with scabs on this rea if you are pregnant or not pregnant? Let us see each case scenario in details.
If you have this problem and you are not pregnant and are not nursing a baby, then you should try to find out what is causing the lesion in the first place. You will require you to consult a physician to get to the root of the problem.
First, you need to avoid picking the scabs. This habit delays the healing process and makes the injury worse.
In minor cases, you can handle the scab on the nipple through proper hygiene practices and the use of petroleum jelly or Lanolin. Here, you gently clean the affected area using antiseptic, and a clean cloth. After that, gently dab an antiseptic cream such as lanolin on the wound.
It is advisable to shop for well-fitting bras. Avoid bras with seams on the nipple area as they are likely to irritate the skin. Similarly, avoid activities that would trigger an irritation, as well as clothes that irritate the skin.
Lastly, avoid harsh weather and keep the nipples warm. There are cases where a simple application of Vaseline on the affected area, coupled with avoiding further irritation led to the healing of the scab.
Overall, give the nipple issue a few weeks to heal. If the symptoms keep getting worse, then consult a physician for a check-up to get the right diagnosis.
#For the pregnant or breastfeeding mothers
You can apply a small amount of purified lanolin cream on the affected nipple to promote faster healing. Also, bathe the nipples in warm water after each breastfeeding to promote faster healing. You can hand-express some milk, rub it on the scab, and let it dry before wearing a bra. This act will soften the crust, thereby speeding the healing time.
A warm compress can help ease the soreness and the scabbing. Take a clean cloth. Soak it in warm water and press it on the affected breast. Also, consider purchasing a nipple shield or breast shell to reduce pressure on the sore nipple while healing goes on.
If you are in a lot of pain, then consider pumping for a day and feed the baby using expressed milk. Doing so will will give the skin time to rest. However, if you continue nursing, then try rinsing the breast in a saline solution (1/2 teaspoon of table salt, and 1 cup of warm water). Spray the solution on the affected breast and then pat dry. Try to avoid products that may cause further irritation such as fragrance filled soaps and lotions.
If you cannot see any improvements taking place, then it is advisable to get in touch with a health professional or lactation consultant.
- Jan Riordan. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2005
- Consumer Dummies. Pregnancy All-In-One For Dummies, John Wiley & Sons, 16 May 2016