Nipples are sensitive, and they can hurt for lots of reasons. Tight clothes, rashes, and infections can all irritate the tender skin. For women, sore nipples are common during periods, pregnancy, and breastfeeding.

Any pain in your nipples can make you wonder if you have breast cancer. It’s rare for it to be the main symptom of the disease, but you should still see your doctor to have nipple pain checked out if it doesn’t go away.

Here are some of the most common causes of nipple soreness and how to treat them.

Poorly Fitting Clothes

A loose shirt or bra can rub against your nipples and irritate your skin, especially with repeated motion like long-distance running. Too much friction could make your nipples bleed.

Avoid this problem by wearing tops and bras that fit you well. Before you run, cover your nipples with waterproof bandages or nipple guards to protect them.

When chafing causes soreness, apply an antibiotic ointment. Then cover the nipple with sterile gauze.

Skin Conditions

Soreness plus an itchy rash and swelling around your nipple could be signs of skin irritation called dermatitis. Allergies and irritants in your environment cause this common condition.

Menstrual Periods

Sore nipples and breasts can be signs that your period is coming. Rising estrogen levels cause breast tissue to swell. The pain should stop once you get your period or shortly afterward.


Hormone changes also cause nipple tenderness during pregnancy. But the main signs that you’re pregnant include:

  • Missed periods
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling tired
  • Peeing more often than usual

Your breasts and nipples will also swell. They may leak fluid as you get closer to delivery.

Choose a maternity bra that fits well. If your breasts really hurt, ask your doctor which pain relievers are safe for you to take during pregnancy.


Intense pain in your nipple could be a sign of an infection.

Mastitis is an infection of the milk ducts. It happens when bacteria grow inside blocked ducts. It’s most common during breastfeeding, but women can get it during other times of life.

Women don’t really talk about their nipples, but there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone has them, and because they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, it’s important to know which conditions are considered “normal,” and which aren’t. One such condition is having inverted nipples. It can be temporary or permanent and affects between 10 and 20 percent of women.

Sometimes both nipples are inverted, sometimes only one is, and there are even different “degrees” of nipple inversion.

This happens to both men and women alike, but it usually affects women more directly since they use their breasts to breastfeed and associate much of their femininity with them.

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