With the threat of breast cancer, there’s no surprise why many women get scared if their breast changes.
But the truth is, there are plenty of factors that can change the shape, texture, or appearance of your nipple and areola.
Some of the changes may happen temporarily and because of a change in your hormones, pregnancy, or breastfeeding.
The permanent changes, on the other hand, usually occur after weight loss, a breast surgery, or as part of aging.
This is why it is so important for you to be familiar with what your breasts normally look like so you can report any change to your doctor.
Why Are My Nipples Turning Purplish
One common question that women ask is “why are my nipples turning purplish.”
And of course, seeing your nipple turn into this hue can be very scary; especially if it’s your first time seeing it.
If this is something you are currently experiencing, we have some answers to your commonly asked questions.
You’ll get to know how serious this condition can be and what is causing it.
1.) What is Nipple Vasospasm
Vasospasm is a condition that occurs when your blood vessels go into a spasm thus reducing the flow of blood to the nipple.
When vasospasm occurs, it is normal to feel intense pain; especially if the weather is also cold.
To be clear, any blood vessel in the body can be affected by vasospasm. But for breastfeeding mothers, it can be a painful occurrence.
This condition can also affect milk flow from the nipple.
For breastfeeding moms, nipple vasospasm can happen after nipple trauma. If your baby is not properly latched to your breast, this is something that can happen after.
But for those who are not breastfeeding, nipple vasospasm can also happen because of Raynaud’s phenomenon.
It lets vasospasm occur randomly, even in those who are not breastfeeding.
According to some women, the pain can be described as burning and throbbing nipple pain. You may wonder why are my nipples turning purplish at times, but this is common during an attack.
Apart from turning purplish, your nipple may also turn white, blue, or red. After the occurrence, your nipple will return to its normal color.
The sensation may occur for a few seconds, minutes, or longer. There is no guarantee to this since it varies among women.
2.) Who Gets Affected By Vasospasm?
For some women, the first time they experience nipple vasospasm is during their pregnancy.
If you have any of the following, you may be more susceptible to nipple vasospasm compared to other women:
- Have poor blood circulation
- Tend to have cold fingers
- Have below average weight for your height (low body mass index)
- Has a family history of Raynaud’s phenomenon
While it is common among women, it can also affect men.
3.) Breastfeeding & Nipple Vasospasm
The painful sensation can be described as minor discomfort to intense pain. Also, if you are a smoker, your vasospasm may worsen since nicotine constricts your blood vessels.
Sometimes, the pain can be so severe that women get discouraged to continue to breastfeed their babies.
The episode can occur anytime they are breastfeeding. It may also happen before or after a baby latches onto the breast.
In some cases, vasospasm can also be felt during milk let down or when the ejection reflex has been activated.
4.) How to Manage Vasospasm
In order to manage nipple vasospasm, the best thing to do is to know what is causing it.
Once you are aware of these triggers, you can avoid or reduce your exposure to them. Some of the common triggers include the following:
- Poor latch
- Nipple damage or infection (nipple thrush)
- Medications/chemicals that can worsen spasm
- Exposing nipples to cold air
You can also follow these tips to help you manage the condition when it occurs:
- Relieve the pain by applying a warm pack immediately
- Use ‘breast warmers’
- Wear extra clothing and avoid sudden temperature changes
- Avoid airing out your nipples
- Before undressing, make sure your bathroom is warm
If the pain is unbearable, you can visit your doctor for a consultation. You may be prescribed to take fish oil, evening primrose oil, or magnesium tablets.
You may also be prescribed medication to treat the condition. To get more advice, you can consult a lactation expert.
You can also get guidance on proper latching so you can avoid having another episode.
Other Reasons Why Your Nipple Changes
There are plenty of reasons why your breasts will change. And sometimes, it has nothing to do with breastfeeding.
So if you are wondering why are my nipples turning purplish, know that it doesn’t mean it’s cancer right away.
Most of the reasons that color changes occur are benign. But if you would like to be certain, the best thing to do is to get a consultation with your doctor.
Here are the things that may cause your nipple color to change:
When you reach puberty, your ovaries release the hormone estrogen. And this is usually the time when the hormone level spikes up.
The increase in estrogen causes your breasts to develop. When this happens, your nipples undergo a major color change. They usually darken and elevate from the surrounding skin.
2.) Hairs around the nipples
The tiny hair around your nipple may also be darker compared to the hair found on other parts of your body.
And because of this, it may make your nipple look darker; especially if they are growing close to them.
Yes, it’s not uncommon for people to have tiny hairs around the nipple. This should be normalized.
Another normal part of growing up is experiencing menstruation.
This is a crucial part of a girl’s life since it signals the ovaries to start preparing the egg for fertilization.
During this time, the hormone levels in the body also change a lot. It can make you notice your nipples become darker once you are ovulating.
4.) Oral contraceptives
If you are taking birth control pills, you may also notice the area surrounding your nipples darken.
This is because you are supplying your body with synthetic versions of estrogen and progesterone. And just like every other hormonal change, it can affect your body too.
Once you stop taking the pill, however, the darkening will likely clear up.
When you are pregnant, your body again produces extra estrogen and progesterone so you can up your milk production for your coming baby.
This will cause your breasts to start changing once again since your body is producing more hormones.
During pregnancy, you may even notice that your breasts become sore and swollen. And not only that, but your nipples also get darker.
The good news, however, is that this change is temporary. Once you give birth and start breastfeeding, your nipples will lighten once more.
According to scientists, the reason why your breasts darken when you are breastfeeding is so your newborn can latch easily.
This makes a lot of sense since babies are born with poor eyesight. Your darker nipples could be your body’s way of helping your newborn locate his food source.
But the color change can also be caused by fluctuations in your hormones.
Again, your nipple color will return to its normal state once you end your breastfeeding journey.
There is a form of breast cancer that starts in the nipple. This cancer type is known as Paget’s disease and is quite rare.
Some of the early symptoms of the disease include:
- Darkening nipples
- Flattened nipples
- Nipple discharge with yellow substance or blood
- Itching/tingling around the nipple
- Crusty, flaking, or thick skin around the nipple
This cancer can develop at any time in people’s lives. But it is more common in older adults.
If you experience any of these signs, it is best that you consult your doctor as soon as you start noticing them.
Also view: Dead Skin on Nipples During Pregnancy
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do my nipples turn purple sometimes?
For breastfeeding moms, this is pretty common as the blood vessels contract and your blood flow to the skin is restricted.
But this is only temporary and doesn’t usually take very long.
After a few seconds or minutes, your blood vessels will start to relax and let blood flow return to its normal pace. This will also let your nipple turn pink again.
Are purple nipples a thing?
Yes, it usually indicates that your blood vessels in the area are contracting. You may notice that the tip of your nipple turns white before it turns blue, purple, or red.
After that, your nipple will return to its normal color. The sensation usually comes with a burning and throbbing pain.
What determines the color of a woman’s nipples?
It’s important to know that nipples vary in color, depending on the person and skin tone. This is affected by how much melanin is found in the person’s body.
The idea is, the more melanin you have in your nipples, the darker these will be.
Iesha is a loving mother of 2 beautiful children. She’s an active parent who enjoys indoor and outdoor adventures with her family. Her mission is to share practical and realistic parenting advice to help the parenting community becoming stronger.